Memoirs of an Interplanetary Queen

Memoirs of an Interplanetary Queen

Part 1

Tomorrow is my eighteenth birthday and I've been waiting for this day for many years. You see, I've had a crush on a girl since the tenth grade. She's like the feeling of standing in a warm summer's rain; like the first day in spring when you realize you don’t need to wear a coat; like the fresh smell of the air after a lightning storm; and like the first taste of bubblegum before it become all bland and tasteless. Tomorrow, on my birthday, she promised me that we'd have a date.

I can imagine it now. I'm standing on a couple or three large telephone books so I can look her straight in the eyes. I'm on the short side and I need a little vertical encouragement... Anyways, I'm looking in her blue eyes, her long brunette hair is lightly blowing in the warm summer, fresh-cut grass smelling breeze, and her full red lips are moist and slightly parted, ready for my kiss. A strand of my long blonde hair drifts in front of my eyes...

No! Wait! This is my fantasy! My dream of what will happen tomorrow. What's with the long blonde hair? I sigh and try to start over but it's no use. Talyn, that's her name. She's always been there for me, stood by my side, defended me, but never really shown any inkling that she was remotely interested in me romantically. I'm also sure whatever we do on our date, I'll not find a couple of telephone books ready for me to kiss her spontaneously. I can imagine it now. The moment is right, Talyn is ready for my kiss, and I have to run and find three telephone books.

Who am I kidding? If I'd been born as a puppy, I would've been the runt of the runts of twenty litters of puppies. I was five foot three and had disgusting dog-poop colored hair with more cow licks than spiders have legs. My eyes were the color of leftover bananas that had been exposed to the air too long. I was uncoordinated, ungainly, uncultured, unimpressive, and overall, uninteresting. Whereas, Talyn... Wow, she was like the first taste of a chocolate cake, or as fresh as water from melted un-yellowed snow.

Why she even likes me I'm sure I'll never know. I'd scale the tallest tree that was covered in poison ivy totally naked to prove my love to her. If a runaway moose was after her, I'd be willing to lay my life down to protect her. Only she and I know how embarrassingly often she protected me in the last years of high school.

I've always been the brunt of jokes, teasing, and bullying at school. I was called gay, fag, girlie-girl, wimp, mouse, and pee-on. I was underdeveloped everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Once the guys in gym class threw me naked into the girl's change room because they said I was a girl and shouldn’t be with the men. Always, Talyn was there. She fought for me, even against guys twice her size. Amazingly, she won everytime. She'd give me first aid after I'd been in a one-sided fight, which was quite frequent. She'd walk me home from the bus. She'd lift my spirits when I was feeling down.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a pushover. Well, I was easily pushed over, but I did stand up for what was right. No matter how many times I got the cr-p beat out of me for sticking my slightly crooked nose where it didn’t belong, I always fought for the little guy. If someone was being bullied, I'd be the first to try to stop that. If the kid that was bigger than me got pushed by a bigger kid, then I'd squeeze in between the two to try and stop the fight. Not sure how I got wired to be a superhero when I was stuck in Minnie Mouse's body. And yes, it wasn't a Freudian slip, I did say Minnie Mouse because she's smaller than Mickey.

But Talyn... I worship her. She's like that new car smell. I'll never understand why she stands by me day after day. Maybe I'm more like a sister to her? I realized long ago my life would've been better if I'd been born a girl. Maybe she saw me more like a little sister.

I looked at the clock and was surprised I'd daydreamed the evening away. I said goodnight to my adoptive parents who, I believe, took me in more for government tax write-off than to be parents. They barely knew who I was and altogether forgot it was my birthday tomorrow. It bothered me but I wasn't surprised as they'd missed my last five birthdays.

I went to my room and looked around. On my walls were posters of space and Star Wars. My favorite was a poster of Rey. She was everything I dreamed of being one day. Okay, I'll admit that's a little strange, but it was true. I despised who I was and she was the exact opposite. Confident yet compassionate. Beautiful and courageous. Who wouldn't want to be her?

I try not to be so down on myself. Sure, my analogies suck, but I'm smart. I got straight 'A's in all my subjects in school. I didn't even have to study. I never hit my head on things and it doesn't cost a lot to feed me. My parents, even though they mostly ignore me, took me in and clothed me and always gave me a place where I felt secure.

It took a while to get to sleep. After all, if you're about to have a date with a girl whose looks would make an angel appear as ugly, sleeping is usually the last thing on your mind.

Part 2

When I woke, I jumped out of bed as I realized it was nearly eight in the morning. Talyn said she'd pick me up at nine. Today was going to be an awesome day! I was eighteen and out of high school, it was summer, and I've got a date with Talyn. I looked at myself in the mirror and cringed. Nothing I could improve there without reincarnation. I ran downstairs to find a note on the kitchen table.

'Gone out for a few days. Try to get a job. You're out of high school now and you should be out of the house altogether or paying rent.'

Really? I opened the fridge to find next to nothing except a few beer and some moldy leftover pizza. I'd try not to let it get to me, but I admit it did hurt. The doorbell rang as I was eating a handful of dry cold cereal for breakfast. I ran to the door.

"Hey Tiger! Happy birthday!" Talyn leaned in and gave me a hug. It was so nice since I was on the step above her it made us a little closer in height. I always thought her nickname for me was cute. I prefered Tiger to George any day. She said she called me that because I had the heart of a tiger.

"Talyn, I've been looking forward to this day for so long. I can't tell you how much it means to me you'd take the time to be with me. Did you want to come in for a second? I just need to wash up and I'll be right back."

"Sure thing, Tiger. Don’t take too long though, we've got a tight schedule today."

I ran upstairs, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and ran back downstairs faster than an Olympic swimmer completed a lap in a pool. Talyn was in the kitchen. She'd just read my parent's note and had a disgusted frown on her face.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have read that."

"No worries. Such is life when you're me."

"They don't know what they have in you."

"A tax-break? Someone to mow the lawn?"

"No! They really don’t know what and who you are. If they did, I'm sure they'd treat you different. Come on, let's go!"

I followed after her, excited to see what would lie in store for me today. I locked the door behind me and saw a gorgeous shiny blue Yamaha FJR motorcycle. "Is that yours?"

"Uhm... A friend is letting me borrow it. Here, put on the helmet."

"I didn't know you could ride a motorcycle."

"There are a few things you don’t know about me."

Talyn was saying some strange things lately. I wasn't sure what to make of it. When she straddled the bike and indicated to me to get on behind her, my musings vanished.

"Hang on to me!"

I laid my head against her back and wrapped my arms around her waist. I was in heaven.

"Here we go!" The motorcycle leapt forward. I've never gone from zero to sixty so fast in my life before. I imagined myself in a hovercar in Star Wars. It was exhilarating.

We travelled for over an hour and wound up at a cabin next to a lake. It was pretty isolated even though it wasn't far off the main road. Talyn had me get off the motorcycle and she walked me to the door of the cabin. We put the helmets inside and she quickly found a blanket and a picnic basket. She led me back outside to a spot next to the lake and spread out the blanket. I ignored the chirping of the birds, the occasional fish leaping from the water, and the fresh smell of the pine forest. My entire world right now was right before me. We sat down and she fished into the basket and pulled out a pair of wine glasses and a little bottle.

"Wine?"

She smiled. I was always dazzled by her smile. It was like a row of clouds in a sky of red. Terrible analogy. Her smile was like pearls set amongst rubies. Her smile was amazing. "We need to toast, Tiger."

"What do we toast to?"

"To the end of your old life and the start of your new life."

"That sounds like I'm dying. But sure... I can see it in a way. I'm eighteen now. My parents want to kick me out of the house. I'll have to get a job. The old is gone and the new is yet to come."

"You're not eighteen yet."

"Sure I am. This is my birthday."

"You turn eighteen when you match the same time eighteen years after your birth. That's not for another forty-three minutes."

"You know the exact time I was born."

"I know more about you than you might think."

Here was another example of general strangeness coming from Talyn. I decided to change the topic. "Talyn, why do you like me? I mean, look at me. You could be with any guy in the world. You're gorgeous, talented, kick-ass, and smart."

"It's complicated." She looked over the lake and paused thoughtfully.

"You don’t want to say because you'll offend me. You pity me? Is that why?"

"Oh for heaven's sake, Tiger. I don't pity you. You have something inside you that few people in this world have. You've got spunk. You're a fighter. You're incredibly smart. You're compassionate and care about people. For all of these things and more, this is why I like you."

"Would you be romantically interested in me if I was better looking?" I wasn't sure where these words were coming from. Someone hiding in the forest must be remotely controlling my mouth.

She stared at me with her big confused eyes. I stymied her. She didn't know what to say. "I'm attracted to you."

That was all I needed to hear. We were sitting close to one another so my height didn’t make much difference. I had the wine fuelling me. I leaned close and kissed her. She now had a look of complete befuddlement and bafflement. She stood quickly and gracefully, like a gazelle near a crocodile, and took a few paces away from me.

"I'm sorry, Talyn. Forget that ever happened." I pleaded with her. She was the only friend I had in the world.

She turned and looked at me, then at her watch. "I'm flattered, Tiger. Really I am. But you believe you know me when you really don't."

"I don’t understand."

"I need you to come to the bedroom with me."

"Uhm... Sure!"

"I'm not asking you to sleep with me, Tiger."

"Oh. You know I'll follow you anywhere. Lead the way."

I followed Talyn into the bedroom. "I need you to sit on the bed and take this pill."

I looked at her outstretched hand with a little blue pill in her palm. "Uhm... Talyn? I might not be exceptionally endowed, but I don't think I need a Viagra."

Talyn sighed but remained calm. "It's not Viagra. It's to put you to sleep."

"Is this when you tell me the world around me is a virtual image projected into my mind and I'm really a human battery powering robots that have secretly taken over the world? Why would you want me to fall asleep?"

"If you take the pill, I'll sit with you and explain a few things."

My imagination started running wild. Talyn was an axe murderer but couldn’t kill me if I was awake. Hmmm. No biggy. I'd be honored to be chopped up by Talyn. Maybe she wanted to make me a cake while I slept. No matter what I imagined, nothing was too bad, so I reached for the pill and swallowed it.

"Okay, Tiger. I'm going to turn around. Take off your clothes and slip under the sheets. Tell me when you're ready."

"This is getting more than a little strange."

She turned and I stripped, embarrassed by my scrawny body. I slid under the covers and rolled on my side so I could see her. "I'm ready."

Talyn came over and sat on the bed next to me. I started getting sleepy right away. She pulled the sheet up and around my neck in a loving manner. "I'm going to tell you a story. You're not who you think you are and I'm not who you think I am. You weren't born here. You're from another planet. A planet of magic and wonder." I was very sleepy and groggy and having a hard time concentrating. "You were born to Christophos and Annabella Amiday, King and Queen of the planet and empire Nealander. Your name is Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday, Princess of Nealander." I was listening, but things weren't registering. Did Talyn just say I was a princess? I shrugged and drifted off to sleep.

Part 3

When I woke I could feel the warmth of the cabin and could smell the distinct odor of burning wood. I opened my eyes to see a cozy fire burning in the fireplace. There were several lights on in the cabin but it was still dimly lit. Darkness had fallen outside. I looked over and could see Talyn stirring next to me. She was sitting in a chair and must have drifted off to sleep. I lay there unmoving, content to merely watch her. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked at me.

"Oh my God! I'm sorry I fell asleep. Don't speak or move yet. Let me get a better look at you." She took a lamp from the nightstand and moved it closer to my face. Talyn drew in a deep breath and looked stunned. I knew I wasn't the best looking kid around, but she looked like she was about to faint. I must be quite a sight. Was there drool falling from my lips?

"Do you remember anything from the story I began telling you last night? Just nod yes or no." It was my breath. She didn’t want me to talk and breathe out early evening morning breath. I shook my head no, embarrassed. "I'll start the story again, but you need to promise me something. Don't freak out. You're not the same person that fell asleep a short time ago."

"Why are you acting so..." I stopped mid-sentence. My voice was all wrong. It sounded sweet and melodic, feminine. I shook my head to clear away the remaining grogginess. A few stray blonde hairs fell in front of my eyes.

Talyn reached over and pulled the hair from my widening eyes. "You need to take this slow. I can't imagine what a shock this will be for you. You're a young woman now. Well, that's not completely accurate. You were always female, but you'd been transformed for your own safety. Once you turned eighteen, the age of maturity, your transformation ended. That was a few hours ago."

"Wait, what..." I stopped my feminine voice again. I pulled my hand to my face. It was definitely feminine, or more feminine than it had been.

Talyn reached over and placed her hand on my cheek. "Look at me." I was starting to hyperventilate. I looked her in the eyes, my analogies forgotten for the moment. "Breathe. Slowly. One deep breath, now another. When you're ready, I want you to sit up."

I breathed slowly and closed my eyes. I felt Talyn's hand on my cheek. It felt so soft and warm. A girl. I was a girl? I opened my eyes and looked at Talyn again. I pushed myself into a sitting position and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. I immediately felt the weight shift on my chest, my hair cascaded over my shoulder. I started to gasp again as I looked down.

"Look at me, Tiger. I know how much of a shock this is, but give it a little time. This is who you really are. You'll adjust faster than you think. Obviously, you're naked. We'll get you dressed soon enough but I thought you'd want to see yourself first. There's a mirror over here."

I kept my focus on Talyn's eyes. I had so many questions but her eyes gave me comfort. I stood and instantly realized I was taller. I faced Talyn and I was only a few inches shorter than her now. She was five foot ten, I was likely five eight. I watched Talyn's eyes flicker across my body. She let out an involuntary gasp.

"That bad huh? I look like leftover roadkill after a Hillbilly dinner?"

"You're the most beautiful person I've ever seen."

I turned towards the mirror, feeling my hair and body shift unnaturally. "Is that really me?"

"Yes, my Lady."

I was confused by Talyn's response but I couldn't tear myself away from the image before me. Beautiful. Ethereal. Angelic. Everything I wasn't before I now was. I was beyond exquisite, beyond beautiful. I had long blonde hair, all the way down to my slender waist. My large eyes were the brightest blue I'd ever seen. I stepped closer to the mirror, my hand moving to my face. I traced my fingertips across my full lips and high cheekbones. My skin and lips were so sensitive. I stepped back and looked down. I'd seen pictures of naked women before but never first hand. I'd heard about breast sizes. I'd guess mine to be between a C and a D cup size. I had such a trim waist and nice hips. I gasped at my new womanhood. I couldn't say I was disappointed in the least. I didn't miss the old me.

I turned back to Talyn who stood nearby, her head bowed. I suddenly felt exposed and grabbed the sheet from the bed to wrap it around me. "Tell me again how this happened."

"Yes, my Lady."

"What's with the 'my Lady' stuff? I'm still me."

She carefully glanced up to meet my eyes. "No, my Lady. You're not. You're the Queen of Nealander and I am just a humble protector. I'll repeat what I started to tell you while you were falling asleep. You're not who you think you are and I'm not who you think I am. You weren't born here. You were born to Christophos and Annabella Amiday, King and Queen of the planet and empire Nealander. Your name was Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday, Princess of Nealander. Now that you've reached the age of maturity, your name is now Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday, Queen of Nealander." She put emphasis on the word 'queen'.

I sat down on the bed, trying to focus on the story Talyn was telling me and not how my new body felt.

"It was prophesied that a King with powerful magic in the discipline of fire, and a Queen of powerful magic in the discipline of telekinesis would give birth to a daughter with strength in both disciplines and that daughter would bring peace to the empire. Your parents, understanding the perilous times they lived in, wanted to give you the best chance of life they could. We live in dangerous times. When you were born, they called me, their most trusted protector, and another woman skilled in the art of transformation. You were transformed to a baby boy to protect you from certain death at the hands of the second most powerful clan in the empire, the Cumberlings. The entire empire knew that your father and mother matched the prophecy. There was a battle and your father and mother were killed, the Cumberlings took control of the empire. During the battle I was sent to Earth with you to guard over you and protect you until you came of age."

"And I thought I had a powerful imagination. Although, I can’t dismiss the fact that I'm no longer a male. How could you have brought me here when you're my age?"

"I'm one hundred and thirty seven years old. Young by our standards. You probably don’t remember, but I was your baby sitter for years until you began going to school. Then in high school I attended as I look now, my Lady."

I looked over at Talyn who seemed to be trying hard to keep her eyes downcast. "Why do you do that? You're keeping your eyes down."

"Because you're my queen, my Lady."

"Hogwash."

"My Lady?"

"I'm still me. At least I feel like me inside here. You protected me all these years. No one deserves to bow their head to me, least of all you. I love you, Talyn." She looked shocked at my confession. I looked down at myself and fingered my long blonde hair. "Oh... I see. You're not interested in women. The only reason I'd ever want to be the way I was before would be to be with you. I've lost my chance haven't I?"

"My Lady, I'm nobody, and in a way, I've lied to you all these years about who I was. I'm just a simple fighter. You need to understand I was doing my job to protect you. Something changed a few years ago in me. I started seeing you in a different perspective. I admit, you weren't much to look at but it was your character that attracted me to you. You would fight even though you knew you'd lose. You'd stick up for people because it was the right thing. I've never met such an honorable person as you. You'll make an excellent queen. And, for the record, I didn't say I wasn't attracted to women. It's just that it's forbidden."

"What's forbidden and who forbids it?"

"I'm from a lower caste. The ruling caste would never allow such a thing, my Lady."

"You say I'm a queen?"

"Yes, my Lady."

"And what authority does a queen have?"

"Ultimate authority, my Lady."

"Then if I choose you, who'd ever speak against it? Caste systems are ridiculous and should be abolished. People should be able to choose who they love and not have any barriers to expressing that love as long as both are of age and consenting. Do you have any feelings for me at all?"

"I do, my Lady."

"Then you have my heart. All you have to do is take it. I'd never force myself upon you. I..." Talyn all but tackled me back onto the bed. She placed both hands on my cheeks, stared into my eyes, and kissed me. This wasn't a regular kiss. It wasn't a kiss between sisters. This was a kiss that ignited my very soul. Like when a sword is being forged and is placed into water to cool. That's not quite right.

"Talyn that was ama..." She kissed me again, this time with more passion. My breathing quickened, my heart fluttered. I was putty in her hands. When she pulled away we were both flushed and I felt the coolness of the air between us. I wanted her back next to me.

"May I call you by your first name, my Lady?"

I was still gasping. "You can call me anything you like."

"Serenity, I'm a bit old fashioned and if it's alright with you I want to take things slow between us. I fell in love with your quirky personality and your generous character a long time ago. When I first saw your new face I was instantly attracted to you physically. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. It will be hard for me to keep my hands off of you."

"Talyn, I'm more than happy to go slow. It'll take a while for me to figure out this new body. Of course, it's not very fair that you've already seen me naked and I haven't seen you like that."

She blushed. "If I got naked now, there'd be no stopping me from joining you in that bed. Besides, we've got lots to do."

"Hmmm. I like the sound of that. You're like biting into a ripe peach." She gave me a quizzical look. "Like biting into a ripe peach. Sweet and juicy."

She smiled. "Oh. Now I get it. Thank you. I need to get you dressed. Here, put this on."

"A tiara?"

"Not quite a tiara. It's a bracelet that goes around your bicep. The symbol indicates your position and authority, but it also has a nice feature that you can change your clothing with it. You won't get your tiara until you retake your throne."

I slipped it on my arm as I continued to talk and ask questions. "You mean I actually have to wear a tiara?" As soon as the circlet was on my arm, it flashed and I felt clothing appear on my body. I pulled the sheet away and stood.

"Wow. You look stunning. Very regal."

I looked at myself in the mirror. All my important stuff was covered and in between thin silvery fabric connected the rest. It looked like a mini skirt except it had a longer back that went almost to the floor. Gloves were on my hands and arms and my hair was modified to be half up and half down. Even my feet had shoes on them. "I look like I'm ready for a night of salsa dancing in Rio."

"Women here would die for a little magical item like that. Not much magic works on Earth. Simple things like this work, just not major powers. I'll change as well." I watched her reach up and touch her necklace. She'd always worn it. Her outfit changed and was more revealing. A sword appeared on her hip. She was incredibly sexy. "This is my standard protector outfit. It's flexible and allows for a full range of motion."

"How come I don’t have a sword?"

"You don't know how to use one and you won't need one."

"Why not? I like the idea of being a pirate-wench queen."

Talyn giggled. "When we get to Nealander you'll receive your full powers. If you truly are the prophesied one, you'll be a force to be reckoned with."

"What's it going to be like? What about my parents? Not that they were the best of parents, but don’t they deserve to know what happened to me? I'm scared."

Talyn reached for me and pulled me into her arms. It was nice to be a little smaller than her as my head was able to nestle in to her shoulder and neck. She stroked my hair and kissed my head. "If all goes well, we can come back here in about a week. I left a note for your parents saying that I'd taken you job hunting and to not worry. Besides, we need to figure out exactly what to tell them. I plan on taking you to the summer palace. It's remote and likely not under scrutiny of the Cumberlings. It would give you time to acclimate to your powers, whatever they might be."

I took the opportunity to kiss Talyn while I was there in her arms. "Why am I feeling so comfortable with this change? I should be freaking out about the fact I now have breasts and nothing between my legs."

"I believe it's because this is who you always were. In a way, the transformation was more like a glamour. It didn’t change who you were inside."

"What if I'm a dud and have no powers?"

"That doesn’t negate the fact that you're the rightful queen. It would, however, make things more difficult to regain the throne."

"Can I call you my girlfriend?"

"No. That doesn't translate well in Nealander society. The correct term would be betrothed."

"Betrothed? As in white gowns, flowers, rings, and wedding betrothed?"

"There's only one kind of relationship on Nealander. We're designed for monogamous relationships. When we give our hearts willingly to each other, then it becomes a spiritually and physically permanent covenant. Thus, betrothal, or a relationship moving towards marriage is the only kind we have."

"Wow, this has been some date! I get to marry the girl of my dreams. Uhm... Don't people expect the Queen to have children to pass along the kingdom to? If we're married, do you also become queen?"

"Of course everyone will expect children. It's not as unheard of in Nealander for two women to conceive with a little magical help. I'm not of the bloodline so I'd be considered the First Lady."

"We can conceive. Amazing. Why do men even exist there? Here, men are gross mutations lacking anything that resembles intelligence. How do we get to Nealander? Does the motorcycle turn into a spaceship? Do we call for an interplanetary taxi? Is the answer to everything forty-two?"

"I should have expected you'd have so many questions. This place, this cabin, is a protected location on Earth. I've put the motorcycle away in a storage shed and we can use the teleportation device in the closet to go to Nealander. And, no, this is not the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

"The closet? Did you ever read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? What's with closets and magical gateways into another world? It's a bit cliché."

"Are you ready, Tiger?" I smiled enjoying hearing Talyn call me Tiger again.

"Yes, my Lady."

"I know you're only joking, but once we get to Nealander you can’t speak like that. You can call me Talyn, Protector, or Betrothed while we're in front of others. I recommend Talyn until you can set the Council straight about us." I nodded.

"This has been the best birthday I've ever had. Thank you!" I hugged Talyn and kissed her. "I'm never going to get tired of kissing you. I hope you know what you got yourself into."

"I'm a very physical woman that loves to touch and be touched. You might be the one that's surprised." With that she gently pushed me back against the wall and kissed me so passionately my legs started to buckle.

"Wow... Can this closet teleport us to Vegas? I'm not sure I'm going to survive slow and steady for too long."

She smiled. "Let's just say when it does happen, the build-up will be sufficient to sustain us an entire lifetime. Let's go." She moved us into the closet and closed the door behind us.

Part 4

I was about to crack a joke about coming out of the closet when I felt myself hurdling through space at incredible speeds. George Lucas had it all wrong. Stars didn’t stream like beams of light in hyperspace, they redshifted on the color spectrum and moved slowly. Moments later we went from the darkness of space to brilliant sunshine. I was suddenly very cold and I saw frost on my hands and arms.

"That will go away quickly, my Lady. Stay here while I scout the place." I nodded, unable to speak as I looked out at the beauty before me. This world appeared very Earth-like. I was standing on a large stone balcony. A castle rose elegantly behind me and reminded me of the castle in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Blue and white ramparts stretched into the cloudless sky. Below me was a large lake. The entire area was so picturesque it could have been in a movie. The air smelled fresh and wonderful with the scent of forest. What I assumed were wild creatures wandered by the lakeside. They looked like horses with antlers.

I turned at the sound of Talyn returning. "It looks safe. How are you feeling?"

"This is the summer palace? What's the regular palace like?"

"Far more beautiful, but not half as beautiful as you. You look ravishing here on the balcony. Like you belong here. Be calm and look at your right hand."

I looked at my right hand which had flickering orange flames dancing along it. I waved my hand to try to put the flames out. "What the h...?"

Talyn was there and put her hand on my shoulder. "It won’t hurt you. It's your magic manifesting. You were cold after the teleport. Your body used what it had to warm you back up. In your mind, put the fire away."

I stared at my hand and concentrated. The flames went away. "That's a nice party trick."

"It's more than a party trick. I saw your father level a group of fighters once with fire. He was very powerful. He never used it to kill though. We'll work on training you over the next few days. I'm sure the palace is empty. Only the royal family can open many of the rooms here. Come, let me show you your new home."

I reached over and grabbed Talyn's hand. She looked surprised but then smiled warmly. She led me into the palace. This was far from the dark, dingy castles of Europe. This was bright and airy. "This is the grand ballroom. Your parents would throw extravagant dances here and they invited all the people living in the area, regardless of caste. At the far end is where they were supposed to sit, but they preferred to walk about and mingle with the people. The people loved them. I can tell they'll love you even more."

I ran my hands along the ornate furniture. "How do you know they'll love me?"

"What's not to love? You're a woman that seeks justice. I've seen you put yourself in the middle of a bad situation to protect someone. You're absolutely stunning. If the prophecy is true, you'll unite the empire. That's not happened for tens of thousands of years. It takes both power and love to do that."

"What do you think? Am I the one?" I suddenly felt a little like Neo in the movie The Matrix. They told him he was the one, but he wasn't so sure himself.

"A prophet once told me that I'd fall in love with the one."

"No way!"

Talyn started laughing. "You're so sweet and innocent. No prophet ever spoke to me. Do I think you're the one? Yes. The timing seems correct."

We continued to walk through the grand hall. "What are the Cumberlings like?"

"Do you remember Tad from high school?"

"Kind of hard to forget someone that flunked a dozen grades and had more facial hair than a gorilla. Plus, he gave me a wedgie, dropped me upside down into a trash can, and stuffed me in a girl's locker once. Yeah, I remember him."

"Imagine Tad, but much bigger and more evil."

"Why do the bad guys always have to be big and mean? Wait... How do I know I'm a good guy?"

"You'll see and you'll know." We finally reached the end of the grand hall. There were doors that led off to the left. "These doors lead to your parent's room. Try to open them."

"There's no handle." I walked up and pushed to no avail.

"Try telling the door to open with your mind."

I shrugged and looked at the door and in my mind I said "open". The doors swung inward. "That's cool."

"The doors recognize you as a member of the royal family."

"I guess that mean's you didn’t protect the wrong kid all these years."

We walked into the large room. There was a bathing area, lovely furniture, and a very large bed. Beyond the bed was a large balcony that overlooked another portion of the lake. There were wonderful feminine touches everywhere.

"No one's been in here for at least eighteen years."

Above a large and ornate fireplace was a portrait of a handsome man and a beautiful woman. "Is that them? My mom and dad?" Talyn nodded solemnly. I reached up and touched the painting, gliding my fingers over the painted portion of my mother's foot. I felt wetness fall from my eyes. I turned into Talyn's arms and wept. "I never had a chance to know them. She was so beautiful and he was so handsome. What were they like?"

Talyn led me to the bed and we sat down together on the edge. "Your father was a great man of courage and strength. Your mother was gracious and kind. Together they made the empire a special place. I see their character in you. You resemble your mother, but I must say you're far more beautiful."

I looked back at my parents. "What happens now?"

"We need to get you used to your powers, contact devoted members of the royal family, see what remains of the military, take back the throne, punish the Cumberlings, throw a massive party, and get married."

"Do we have to do all those things before the last one?"

"The queen can only get married in the Temple of Stars. The Temple of Stars is under control of the Cumberlings. The wedding can be announced at the party but then it takes sixty days for the preparations to be made."

"Sixty days?" I looked over Talyn's lithe body. "I'm not sure I can wait sixty minutes."

"A day on Nealander is roughly twenty-eight Earth hours. The day is divided into one hundred tarns. It is roughly tarn seventy-two right now. Each tarn is just under eighteen Earth minutes. A year on Nealander is three hundred and thirteen days, almost exactly the same hours as a year on Earth."

"So it should be getting dark soon."

"Yes, but Nealander has two moons that orbit the planet quite quickly. Most nights can be a little brighter than the Earth at night with clear skies and a full moon."

"Will we sleep here?"

"You'll sleep here. There is an attached room for Protectors."

"You can sleep with me in this big bed."

"If I got into bed with you, then I might not be able to control myself. It's best we sleep separate so we remain pure for our wedding night."

"What if I get cold?"

"Light a fire."

"With what?"

"Your magic, silly. When you're ready for bed, touch your bracelet and think of going to sleep. Consider the room over there a bathroom. You can have a bath. There are lotions and soaps, even towels. The queen is generally waited on by servants that will wash you. At least, for now, you'll have to do it yourself."

"I only want one person to ever see me naked, and that's you." Talyn bit her lower lip. "I don't need servants to wash me."

"People will want to serve you, some would say they need to serve you. I like that you only want me to see you. That's very special to me."

"If I'm queen, then I'd think my job is to serve the people, not the other way around."

"A great leader serves their people, and the people will love them for that. That love will manifest itself in loyal people who will want to serve you. This is something the Cumberlings don’t understand. They demand to be served while taking everything for themselves. Goodnight, my Love" Talyn kissed me several times before walking to the attached room and closing the door behind her.

Part 5

This would take some getting used to. I walked towards the balcony and told the doors to open with my mind. I stepped out as the sun was setting. One of the moons was rising off to my left as the sun set slightly to my right. The sky lit up like fire, the lake reflected the last moments of the sun. The air cooled quickly and a mist began to form over the lake. The mist rolled slowly towards the forest. I watched as one of the horse-like creatures came from the forest towards me. It was pure white and it seemed to look me in the eye. It dropped its head almost like it was bowing to me before it walked back into the forest. I shivered and walked back into my room and closed the doors behind me.

I walked towards the bathroom and assessed the facilities. There was hot water already in the bath. I wondered if it always had water in it. I touched my bracelet and thought of a bath. My clothes vanished. A mirror stood in the corner and I looked at myself. I was breathtaking. I touched the water with my toe and the temperature felt perfect. I stepped into the bath and noticed how my new body floated differently. I closed my eyes and luxuriated in the water. I explored my body and was amazed to feel how sensitive it was. Every place I touched sent waves of warmth and pleasure through my body. I thought of Talyn and that warmth flared into a deep desire and passion. I could have and wanted to please myself to learn all that this body had to offer, but I wanted Talyn more. I wanted her to teach me about my body.

I hesitantly and reluctantly slowed my exploring and looked around the bathroom. Several containers sat on a shelf nearby and I stubbornly refused to get out of the perfect temperature water. Didn't my mother have telekinetic abilities? Everything was thought-based. I imagined the container floating down to me and it did. I did the same with another three containers. I now knew I had two abilities. I was feeling pretty smug and I admit the power was going to my head. I imagined the things I could do to bullies, then I felt shameful. The words "with great power comes great responsibility" came to mind. Peter Parker's uncle was correct. This power needed to be used to help people, not harm them.

I sighed and tested each of the containers. One container smelled heavenly and it lathered up nicely. I used it on me and my hair. When I was finally turning into a prune I thought of my abilities once again. I concentrated on raising myself from the water. There was no effort at all as I floated over the water. I knew I could fly at this point. I found a towel on a shelf and dried myself. My hair was still very wet so I wrapped the towel around it. I touched the bracelet and thought of bedtime. A thin sheer gown covered me. I looked in the mirror and saw how the nightgown clung to my curves and was very transparent. It felt so good against my skin.

I walked towards the bed but my towel fell off my head. My hair was strangely dry and the towel vanished from the floor. I was in a brave new world. I shivered at the coolness of the room. I looked to the fireplace. Do I dare? There was firewood already stacked in there. I pointed my finger at the fireplace and imagined a fire there. I had to hand it to myself that I did start the wood on fire, but the subsequent fireball blew me back forty feet. While in the air something happened to me and I was surrounded by a sphere of shimmering light that seemed to absorb the impact when I collided with Talyn's door. Talyn was at my side in a flash.

I stood with her help. I was a little shaken up but otherwise fine. "What happened? Are you alright?"

"I'm fine I think. I was cold so I thought I'd do as you suggested and light the fire. There was a big fireball that threw me backwards. Something else happened. Before I hit the door, a sphere of light went around me. It seemed to absorb the impact."

Talyn looked me over carefully. "That would mean you have magical ability in shields but it would be extremely rare to create a shield big enough to surround you."

"I also have telekinetic ability." I concentrated and lifted myself off the ground then back down.

"I've never seen anyone with that ability move more than small objects. Can you lift us both?" I tried and found that we were both lifted from the ground. "Unbelievable. Think about making a shield of light in front of us." I did and a shield appeared that stretched from the floor to the tops of our heads and spanned across both our bodies. "There's no question, you’re the one. I've never seen so much power displayed. Are you tired? Is it hard on you?"

"I'm a little tired, but I feel like I've got much more to draw on." I finally realized Talyn was wearing a nightgown similar to mine and it was mostly transparent. "God, Talyn. You're so beautiful." She blushed and touched her necklace to change into something less revealing. Then I noticed her eyes were transfixed on my body. I touched the bracelet to change as well.

"Thank you, Tiger. I'm not sure I could have restrained myself much longer. You have a fire going, you smell wonderful so you must have had a bath, and you're safe and sound. We should get some sleep." Her hand slipped behind my neck and pulled me into a kiss. My arms automatically wrapped around her waist and pulled her to me. One kiss led to another and another until finally Talyn pulled away. Her breasts were heaving in time with her breathing. "Goodnight, Tiger."

"Goodnight, Talyn." I turned and set my clothing back to the nightgown and slipped into the large bed. The room had warmed up nicely, or maybe it was me that had warmed up. Either way, I was as toasty as a marshmallow between chocolate wedges.

Part 6

I woke slowly the next morning. I opened my eyes to see Talyn laying on the bed next to me staring into my eyes. "You're so beautiful, Serenity. When I came out I saw you were still sleeping. You looked like an angel. I had to lay next to you."

"I'm looking forward to waking up next to you for the rest of my life." I gave her a kiss. My first morning waking up as a woman was such an amazing feeling. "I had a hard time getting to sleep last night as I was worried this was all a big dream and I'd wake up back as my old self and in my old home. If anything, I feel even more comfortable with who I am now. What's on the schedule for the day?"

"I sent messages to three magical discipline leaders that are still loyal to you and your family. I also sent a message to the old captains of the guard and militias. They were deposed when the Cumberlings took power. They'll all be here in an hour. We'll meet, discuss plans, and test your abilities and help you fine tune them with training. The Cumberlings don’t know you exist yet. Let's hope we can keep it that way."

"So you're saying we have an hour to kill?" I pulled back the bedding knowing I was still in my sheer nightgown.

"Ohhh, Tiger!" Talyn tackled me and wrapped me in her arms. We were good and didn't do anything we weren't supposed to do, but it was very clear both Talyn and I didn’t want to stop our kisses or embrace. After fifteen minutes of some very passionate kissing we both decided that we were close to reaching a point of no return and we should get up and find some food.

I changed into the same outfit I wore the previous day. Talyn said it was regal looking. We walked out onto the balcony of the bedroom and looked over the scenery. Talyn seemed like she was homesick for this place and I could see why.

"I came out here last night at sunset and saw a white horse-like creature. It came out of the forest and mist and looked at me. I swear it bowed then left. What are those creatures?"

"They're called Antallas. They're magical creatures that roam the planet. I've only heard of white ones as part of ancient legend. The legend tells of how Nealander was under constant strife with all the people fighting. The forests, planet, and people were being ravaged by war. It was said that a white Antallas chose a man to lead the planet to peace. The man rode the white Antallas from people group to people group uniting the world. That man became the first King of Nealander. That would have been about ten thousand years ago. If what you saw was real, then perhaps it's a sign. Let's head to the main entrance. Our guests should be arriving soon."

I took her hand in mine, but she let it go. "Until you're pronounced Queen and we make an announcement, we need appear as Queen and Protector. With our both being away for eighteen years, they'll expect some relationship between us and accept some lapses in protocol, but we must follow protocol as best we can. Of course, while we're here, in the privacy of your room, we can be free."

I sighed. I felt like a log adrift in a river unable to control where it was going. "What should I expect from these people?"

"When they recognize you for who you are, they'll immediately bow. Don’t be alarmed or upset by that. They give you honor and respect. Allow them that. Be yourself." I nodded as we continued to walk through the grand hallway to the outer balcony.

When we reached the balcony no one had arrived yet. I looked down into the forest and I was sure I saw a white Antallas in the trees. "How do I go down there?"

"There is a stairway but it's a long ways around and our guests will be here soon."

"I need to go down there. I'll be right back." I concentrated on lifting myself over the balcony railing and dropped down to the field below. I felt compelled to walk towards the forest. I looked back to see Talyn fretting up on the balcony. I took some tentative steps forward when the white Antallas stepped out and started moving towards me. I was amazed at how large it was and with the antlers it could be very dangerous. It was very imposing as it strode forward.

I dropped to one knee, bowed my head, and extended my hand. This truly was a mythical and majestic creature. "Rise!" I heard the word in my mind. "You're the one of prophecy."

I replied in my mind as the great beast placed its muzzle against my hand. "I am Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday. I'm told I'm the rightful queen of Nealander."

"I’m Toor, King of the Antallas. You'll need our help to restore the balance in the world. The Antallas offer their service to you."

"I'm honored by your offer. I hope I'm worthy of your trust. May I ask why you choose to help us?"

"Many years ago, the King of the Antallas worked with the humans to restore balance to the world. A covenant was made between the King of men and the King of the Antallas to form an alliance should the world fall from balance again. This place has been spared the savagery and destruction happening throughout the rest of the world. By restoring you to power and eliminating the threat, balance will be restored. The Antallas are magical creatures and can enhance their rider's natural strength, endurance, abilities, and magic. I sense a great power to your magic, more than any other human. You carry all the magical disciplines within you."

"How will I contact you?"

"When you need me I'll be there."

I looked into his eyes and bowed my head towards him. He in turn bowed his head towards me, turned, and left. I watched him go and wondered just what I'd got myself into. I turned to look back up at the balcony. Talyn and five other people were staring at me with expressions of awe. I floated myself back up to them. When my feet touched the stone of the balcony, all of them bowed deeply to me and softly spoke the words, "My Queen."

I had a sudden urge to run away at that moment. I'd never been the center of attention before with the exception of being the center of attention in a negative way. I was humbled to the point of tears. I bowed deeply to them which caused them to gasp. "I'm not deserving of your devotion, but I'll make it my life's ambition to serve the people of Nealander to the best of my ability and in any way I can."

Talyn stepped forward. "My Lady. These people have all sworn fealty to you. May I introduce Nagora, Disciple of Shield Magic." An elegant older lady waved her hand and produced a Frisbee sized shield. Talyn turned to the next person. "This is Sebastian, Disciple of Fire Magic." The middle-aged man with a grey beard nodded his head towards me and hurled a small fireball into the air. "Next, is Bartel, Disciple of Telekinetic Magic." He held out his hand and spun a small disc in the air. "Rictalous is the former Captain of the Royal Guard." I could see this was a man of loyalty when I looked into his eyes. "And finally, Dartagnen, former Captain of the Militia."

"It's my honor to meet you all. I must apologize for my lack of understanding of the customs of this world. While I'm from here, I've not lived here. My upbringing did little to prepare me for queenship."

Rictalous stepped forward and knelt down and took my hand. "I speak on behalf of all those present. Perhaps it's best our Queen has been raised elsewhere to have a better perspective of what needs fixing. Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to right the wrongs we've all done to ourselves. We arrived in time to see you with the white Antallas. This has only happened once before in the history of men. May I be so bold as to ask what transpired between you two?"

"Of course. His name is Toor, King of the Antallas. He is honoring an age-old alliance between the Antallas and men. He believes my restoration as Queen and removing the threats to the kingdom will restore balance to the world. He's offering the help of the Antallas."

"He speaks?"

"He spoke into my mind and me to his. He also said I carry all the magical disciplines in me. I've witnessed three. How many are there?"

Sebastian stepped forward. "You've witness three already? From yourself? I saw you levitate, which was very impressive, but it would be rare if one person displays rudimentary abilities in two disciplines. I don't mean to insult you, my Lady. This is merely an observation."

Talyn came to my side. "I've already witnessed three myself and at strengths beyond anything I've ever heard existed." She turned to me. "There are seven disciplines. Fire, Telekinetic, Shields, Wind, Water, Healing, and Growth/Restoration, my Lady."

"Where do we begin?"

Dartagnen spoke again. "Strategically, it would be good to understand your abilities as those are crucial for our planning, my Lady. I suggest we test the three disciplines you have while we all watch. We can do limited training of the other disciplines without other discipline specialists to assist us."

"Toor mentioned that the Cumberlings have devastated the world. Is it as he says?"

"Yes, my Lady. People are enslaved to serve them. The land has been stripped. They're powerful magicians and no one can stand in their way."

"I hope I can help you all. Let's start right away. The sooner we can help those people the better."

Sebastian started backing away from us. I didn't pay much attention until I saw a fireball coming at me from my peripheral vision. I turned and put my hand up without thinking and a shield surrounded the remaining group. The fireball simply poofed against the shield and vanished.

Nagora stood amazed. "I've never seen such a large shield before, my Lady. How did you do it?"

"I didn’t think at all. It just happened. Like last night when I almost exploded the fireplace. A shield wrapped around me."

"Can you make a shield around us by concentrating?"

"Yes." I surrounded everyone in the shield.

"Now, grow the size of the shield, my Lady."

I imagined the shield growing like a balloon. It grew and grew until half the palace was engulfed before the edges began fraying. "I guess that's the limit."

"You're not tired, my Lady?"

"No, should I be?"

"She's a conduit. We've theorized it was possible. Our Queen draws upon the magic of the world rather than the magic within her."

Bartel spoke next. "How much can you lift, my Lady? We saw you lift yourself which is more than I've ever seen anyone do before. Below, by the lake. There's a fallen tree. Can you lift it?"

I looked at the fallen tree and concentrated. The tree came up from the edge of the lake with a sucking sound. I spun it around and put it back on the ground. Sebastian pulled a candle from a pouch. He placed the candle on the balcony rail.

"Try to light the candle, my Lady."

I brought up a shield around everyone first after my last fiasco with fire. It was a good thing as when I tried to light the candle, it exploded in a massive fireball that wrapped flames around us all.

"I'm obviously lacking finesse."

"Subtlety and finesse are the mark of a skilled magician, my Lady."

"Do you have another candle?"

Sebastian pulled a second candle from his pouch. I thought small and subtle this time. The candle sparked into flame without the huge explosion.

"I've seen enough!" Dartagnen drew his sword and slashed viciously towards me. My shield went up around me instantly but Talyn had already dove in front of me to protect me. Dartagnen's sword cut cleanly into her side. I looked at Talyn then Dartagnen and screamed in anger. I didn’t even think. Dartagnen was quickly backing away.

I knelt down and cradled Talyn who wasn't looking good. Her breathing was strained and she was bleeding heavily. "Stop!" I yelled at Dartagnen. He was rooted in spot and couldn't move. I started crying as I looked at Talyn. I kissed her and placed my hand on her side and closed my eyes. "Heal!"

Later the others would tell me a white light came from my hand and seeped into Talyn. It only took a few moments and Talyn's breathing was regular again and she was stirring. I held onto her.

"I'm alright, my Lady."

I looked down and saw her side was completely healed. I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her. "Enough of the 'my Lady' stuff. You're my betrothed. I don’t care about special timing or due process." We got to our feet and I clung to Talyn. The others simply nodded their head in acceptance. I turned my eyes back toward Dartagnen.

"How dare you hurt my Betrothed!" I was furious.

"My sword was intended for you, not Talyn."

"Why?" I built a shield around him and lifted him off the ground. I wasn't thinking.

"You'll get nothing from me!"

I started closing the sphere around him until it was squeezing him. "Tell me!"

The fear and hatred in his eyes was intense. "I'm a Cumberling spy. My family is under their control. They'll kill them. I had no choice."

My anger was ebbing, but I was still not in control. I felt a desire pulling at me to collapse the shield and obliterate him. I looked into Talyn's eyes and I started crying again at what I'd become. I dropped him to the ground, removed the shield, and flung his sword so hard it embedded into the stone wall of the palace. I walked up to him. He was shaking but I'd regained control of my anger.

"If I promise to rescue your family, will you serve this group faithfully?"

"I will."

"No. That's not right." I shook my head. "I promise to try to save your family. You're free to do as you please." I turned and fell to my knees, tears falling from my eyes once again. Talyn wrapped me in her arms.

"My Betrothed, why are you crying?"

"I could have killed him. I wasn't in control of my anger. I'm a monster. This world doesn’t need me. I'm a menace."

Talyn looked up and drew her sword as Dartagnen walked closer to us. He knelt in front of me. "Forgive me, my Queen. You had every right to kill me as I'm not worthy to live. I beg your forgiveness and swear my fealty to you. You're indeed the Queen we need."

"No one deserves death. I've failed as a Queen because I let my anger control me."

Talyn spoke for the group. "No, my Betrothed. You're the right person to lead us because you fought against your power and your anger. You have great wisdom and strength."

I looked at Dartagnen. "You're free to go, why swear fealty to me? I'll not accept any who follow me out of fear."

"You spared my life, but more than that, I believe you can restore Nealander."

Talyn helped me to my feet. I looked at the sword in the wall and willed it to come to me. It flew to my hand. I handed it back to Dartagnen hilt first. "Where's your family and where do we go from here?"

"They're held in the dungeons of the Grand Palace in the capital city of Hafflin."

"We have dungeons?"

Nagor spoke. "The dungeons had not been used for millennia. They're now filled to capacity as the Cumberlings use them as a deterrent to those unfaithful towards them. We've seen four disciplines so far leaving wind, water, and growth/restoration yet to be displayed or tested. We should try to test those first, then plan on how to get the throne back, my Lady."

"I can't simply ride Toor into the Grand Palace?"

"That's actually a good idea, my Lady. I think, however, we would all agree that it would put you at some risk. But if it worked, you'd unseat the Cumberlings from their main place of power. Then, they'd be forced to fall back into the countryside with their armies."

"I'm not afraid for myself. My shields seem to form around me automatically. I'd be more afraid for anyone that was with me."

Talyn touched her necklace and changed into what appeared to be full battle gear. "We all have protection. Not enough to stop a fireball or an arrow through the fittings, but enough to be of support. We've fought battles enough times to be able to handle ourselves. The Cumberlings are restricted to portions of the Grand Palace as only royal blood can open the King and Queen's residence and the storage vault."

I was about to say something very unqueen-like as Talyn looked spectacular in her battle outfit. "How many people are stationed at the Grand Palace?"

"Only about two hundred, my Lady."

"Can we create a distraction to draw some out first?"

"I've got an idea, my Lady." Rictalous shared his idea with the group. "My only concern is that you'd need to go into parts of the city that are less than savory, my Lady."

I laughed which seemed to shock them a little. "I've been in a high school change room. There's nothing less savory than that. Besides, if that's where the people of the empire are living, then I shouldn't be afraid to go there."

"What's a high school change room, my Lady?"

Talyn started laughing.

I turned back to them. "Water, wind, and growth/restoration. I guess I could simply try those here." I floated down to the lakeside and focused on the water. I thought of a path of ice across the lake and it formed before my eyes. I stepped out onto the ice and it held firm. I then walked back to the shore and told the ice to melt and form a wall of water in front of me. It was unbelievable. I wasn't sure how this would be useful against the Cumberlings, but I was happy I had a vivid imagination. I let the water go back to normal then I thought of a tornado-like windstorm. I watched as the wind began to spin over the lake and create a waterspout. It seemed all so easy.

I walked over to the dead tree I'd lifted up before. I lifted it again and placed it upright on the ground. I held it there and placed my hand against the muddy trunk. I pictured the tree growing again. Before my eyes the roots grew into the ground and the branches reformed. Finally leaves sprung forth on the branches and flowers bloomed. I floated back to the balcony.

"I guess those disciplines work as well."

"And to see you do them so easily without training or guidance, my Lady. I'm very glad you're on our side."

"I don't think I could ever be a tyrant, Sebastian. The power makes it tempting, but my heart would never allow it. I can’t stand to see people hurting, even my enemies."

"My Lady, we'd like to take our leave and travel back to Hafflin to prepare. If you and Talyn could meet us at the Tavern of the Moon tomorrow at tarn 30, we can continue planning from there."

"Certainly." They all bowed and I assumed they headed to the closet to teleport back to the city. Talyn and I stood alone on the balcony once again. I took her in my arms and kissed her. "You're sure you're alright, my love?"

"Never better, Tiger. With the exception of the last eighteen years, I've been around royalty all my life and I've never seen anyone so impressive as you."

"Seeing magical power demonstrated I'm sure gives that impression."

"The power was amazing, but that's not what I was meaning. How you handled Dartagnen. You took someone that attempted to kill you and you made a lifelong valuable ally. People are trained all their lives to lead people. You inherently know what the right thing to do is."

"I've been abused much of my life. I guess that's a form of life training. I just remembered the time I was called 'girly-girl'. Wouldn't they laugh now if they saw me?"

"People that are abused like you were rarely turn out to be good people. They're broken and damaged individuals that respond and make decisions out of pain. You took the abuse and channeled it into a deep desire to seek justice. That's admirable. And those guys that called you a 'girly-girl', were they ever right. You’re gorgeous and you're all mine!" She wrapped her arms around my neck and pressed her body against mine. Her hand dropped to my butt as she kissed me. A planter nearby burst into flames which seemingly coincided with the heat rising within me.

Talyn pulled away and we both started laughing. I coaxed some water from the lake to put out the fire. "I'll need to learn to control that."

"I think it's cute as long as you don’t set our bed on fire."

The planter burst into flames again as I thought about the two of us in bed together. I sighed and put it out again. Talyn took my hand and led me back into the palace.

Part 7

The next day Talyn showed me the teleporter and explained how it was used. If needed, a map of teleporters could be displayed and filtered to geographic locations. We chose a garden that Talyn used to visit and was fairly close to the tavern. The next thing I knew we were standing in a gray and desolate space that appeared to have had fountains and trees. The odor of death and destruction filled the air. Stumps of trees stood everywhere. It was sad for me to see but one look at Talyn and I could tell she was devastated. Tears formed in her eyes.

Talyn became angry. "This is the work of the Cumberlings!" She was ranting and crying.

"Look at me." I placed my hands on her cheeks and forced her to look in my eyes. "Kiss me."

"What?"

"Close your eyes and kiss me." Talyn took a deep breath to settle herself, closed her eyes and kissed me. I closed my eyes as I held our kiss and I imagined the love and life that poured into me from her kiss. We let the kiss linger and then we opened our eyes.

"Oh my God!" Talyn started crying again but this time it was not out of anger. The garden had been transformed as we kissed. Flowers bloomed everywhere. Fountains bubbled and sprayed with crystal clear water. Even the sky was noticeable clearer. "You did this?"

"Not really. The passion and love from your kiss helped me see this place for what it could be." I reached over and picked a red flower that reminded me of a rose. I handed it to Talyn.

"If you could do this from one kiss, I wonder what would happen if we made love? Thank you! You've shown me all is not lost. Come on Tiger. We've got a kingdom to take back." Ignoring all protocol she took my hand and led me from the garden.

We walked through dirty and soot blackened streets. People appeared frightened and many looked to be rather unscrupulous types. At one point a little boy came towards us from a ramshackle home.

"Who are you?"

"She’s your Qu..." I squeezed Talyn's hand to interrupt her. He was small and reminded me of myself when I was about five years old. I picked him up as his mother stood in the doorway looking terrified.

"We're here to help you." Now the mother was visibly upset after overhearing that. I noticed a small fruit tree and little herb garden that were barely alive. I walked with the boy over to the tree. "Can you help me?" He nodded his head. "Put your hand on the tree with me." We both did so and the tree grew and new green leaves and fruit sprang forth. The herb garden flourished as well. I set the boy down and looked at the mother.

"My Queen." Is all she said as tears fell from her eyes.

"We'll be back." I could see she didn’t believe me but she nodded and bowed.

We continued along the path to the tavern. "How do you do it, Tiger?"

"Do what?"

"Know what to do all the time. That simple act back there did far more than me telling the boy you were Queen."

"You taught me."

"Me? How?"

"How often did you defend me and take care of me as I was growing up? Every time you touched me, every time you were nice to me, you influenced my thinking. I always wanted to be like you. You're more a part of me than you realize."

Talyn stopped us both and stared into my eyes. As always I got lost in their glorious intensity. "You honor me more than I deserve."

"Quite the contrary. I don’t honor you enough. What's nice about our arrangement is that I'll have a chance to show you how much you mean to me for the rest of our lives. You're like finding out finding out the best watermelon you ever ate was seedless. All the joy and no work."

Talyn laughed. "You really need to work on your analogies. I love you, Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday." She kissed me and took my hand to lead us towards the tavern.

"What about protocol? Not that I mind in the least."

"Protocols are like boiling water."

"Like boiling water?"

"Sure. The water boils away but it's still really there. You just can’t see it. If there's no one around who cares about current protocols then we can do what we want." Talyn smiled smugly.

"And you tell me my analogies need work. That was terrible."

We turned a corner and spotted the tavern. I'd been surprised at how few people we'd seen on the streets and that the Cumberlings hadn't found out about us yet. We entered the tavern which turned out to be as seedy as everyone had told me. Mercenary types were brooding over their morning ale at large wooden tables. Serving women hustled back and forth through the crowded rows bringing ale, hot drinks, and food. The air smelled musty.

As we stood in the doorway letting our eyes adjust to the dimness of the room, it was clear that we stood out. Our clothing was spotless and bright in comparison to the grays and browns other people were wearing, but Talyn's beauty was enough to suspend all conversations. I leaned towards Talyn and whispered. "I don’t see the others here yet. Their all staring at you."

"No, my Betrothed. Their not staring at me. Their staring at you. You look like a Queen and your arm bracelet tells them exactly who you claim to be."

A heavyset man wearing an apron came forward to greet us. "You're looking a little out of place, ladies. Might I suggest you'd be more comfortable in the fancier establishments next to the Grand Palace? My concern is for your safety."

"Don't you recognize the symbols?" Talyn seemed slightly irritated.

"Ladies, I believe you might be best served elsewhere." He tossed his eyes over to a corner of the tavern. Two very large men resembling Tad from high school sat there. They both had similar outfits with symbols of fire on their shoulders.

"Cumberlings?" I whispered to Talyn. She nodded. Whom I assumed to be the tavern owner before us looked concerned and anxious. I was about to suggest that we leave when the two in the corner stood, drew their swords, and began pushing their way towards us with angry grimaces on their face. Surprisingly the rest of the tavern stood to get in their way. The two Cumberling men were much larger than the others in the room and they angrily clashed with the other men that blocked them. One man got his nose broken and the Cumberling men were now slashing wildly with their swords. Someone was going to get badly hurt or killed.

"Let them come!" I shouted. I wanted the fighting to stop. I was amazed when people parted to let the Cumberling men through. When they were about ten feet from us they paused warily.

One of them pointed a large grubby finger towards me. "You will come with us!"

"We don't want to hurt you. Drop your swords and you're free to go." I was nervously confident we could handle these two.

The large man laughed and stepped forward brandishing his sword. I focused heat along his sword until it began glowing red. The first man dropped his sword and held his blistered hand in obvious pain, the second man took a step back.

Talyn stepped forward, her sword drawn. "You're addressing Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday, rightful Queen of Nealander. You have two options. Swear fealty to her now or suffer the consequences when the Cumberlings are removed from power." There were murmurs of wonder amongst the crowd.

I stepped forward and took the large man's blistered hand in mine and healed it. His countenance changed from hate to awe and he bowed his head. The second man looked confused but the crowd began pressing him closely. He let his sword drop to the floor and a tentative cheer arose within the tavern. I stepped over to the man with the broken nose and he bowed and kept his eyes low. I placed my hand on his cheek and lifted his face so his eyes met mine. "Thank you for defending me." I healed his nose.

"You really are our Queen. If I may be so bold, where have you been? Why did you leave us? Why are you here in this part of town?"

"That's a long story. I was raised on another planet completely unaware of who I really was until a few days ago. The important thing is I'm here now and here to stay to serve the people of Nealander. I'm so sorry for what's happened here. I pray I can help restore what was lost. Why this tavern? This is the place we chose to meet to organize ourselves."

"We're all honored to be in your presence, my Queen."

"Thank you, but the honor is mine to be among you all."

I walked over to the tavern owner. "Thank you for trying to warn us. What's your name?"

"I am Humbert, my Queen. Can I get you anything?"

"Please don’t go to any trouble or displace anyone, but I believe we need a table for seven."

"I have one in the back room, my Queen."

"Thank you." I touched his arm gently to show I really meant what I said. I turned towards Talyn. "How are our new guests doing, my Betrothed?" Those last two words certainly caused a commotion, but in a positive way.

"They've sworn fealty to you. May I introduce Taric and Galadon, former Cumberling Grand Palace guards?" They both bowed. I was getting tired of people bowing to me.

"May I ask why you both have chosen to swear fealty to me?"

"The Cumberlings rule through the abuse of power and threats. I assume you have the power to kill us yet you chose not to and you also healed my hand. No Cumberling would have ever done that. I, for one, would prefer to live and die under the reign of someone that has compassion, my Queen."

"Then perhaps you can report to Rictalous when he arrives."

"What's this all about, my Queen?" Rictalous and the others had just entered the tavern.

"We have two recruits for your guard."

"My Queen?"

"Yes Humbert?"

"I think you may have more than just two recruits, my Queen." He indicated I turn to look at the people in the tavern. They were all bowing now. I sighed as Talyn gripped my hand giving me reassurance.

"Obviously we'll have many needs for fighters as we rebuild the Royal Guard and the Militia. If you have interest in serving in one of those capacities introduce yourself to Rictalous or Dartagnen."

"My Queen. Your table is ready."

"Thank you, Humbert." I was grateful to be led away from the crowd and towards the back room where we could all talk in peace. We all sat and I started by apologizing. "I must apologize for my actions and words. People are looking to me for direction and I have so little understanding of what needs to be done. I've gone from high school to leading an empire overnight. I must rely on all of you to help guide me."

Talyn came to my rescue again. "We're all here to support you. You don't give yourself enough credit. Your words and actions flow from who you really are. The people adore you."

"Rictalous and Dartagnen. I hope you don’t mind I delegated the task of figuring out how we'll use the people that want to serve."

"Not at all, my Queen. That's what we're here for. I believe we must act quickly to retake the Grand Palace. We have a room full of people out there that just witnessed the return of the rightful queen. Word will spread rapidly and we want to retake the palace before the Cumberlings can be ready for us."

"What do you recommend, Dartagnen?"

"That we all go now. The Grand Palace isn't too far from here. I think you should do your best to make a statement to the people of the city. I recommend you wear your battle gear. We have one hundred trained fighters ready to join us when we arrive at the Grand Way, the main thoroughfare that leads to the entrance of the Grand Palace, my Queen."

"Is everyone in agreement?" They nodded. I stood and tapped my arm bracelet and thought of queenly battle gear and was surprised at the result. My outfit had changed to a shiny gold armor, but not the head to toe kind of armor. This armor was sleek and light and a thin mesh of golden chainmail connected the major pieces. My long blonde hair cascaded over my shoulders. I must have looked quite the sight as everyone gave me an admiring look and Talyn whispered in my ear I looked ravishing.

Part 8

We walked back through the tavern and I thanked the owner again. We stepped out into the light of the day to find Toor waiting for me in the street. I bent my head towards him and he placed his head against my outstretched hand.

"Thank you for coming, Toor."

"The Antallas honor their covenants, Serenity. Feel free to climb up upon my back." He knelt down so I could mount him. When he stood I could feel the additional power. Within a two hundred foot radius the trees sprung into bloom and the streets and buildings were restored.

"Are you doing this, Toor?"

"This is flowing from you, Serenity. My power is augmenting your desires."

I looked around and it reminded me of the movie, Pleasantville that started out black and white then color started showing up in places. Talyn came and placed a hand on my thigh. "I'll be right beside you all the way."

I smiled tentatively and placed my hand on hers. People were coming out of the homes and businesses to see what was going on. We moved forward towards the Grand Way. Life sprung forth everywhere we went. By the time we entered the Grand Way and turned towards the palace, we had several hundred people following us. The Grand Way was a large avenue with gardens on both sides. I looked upon the Grand Palace for the first time and was impressed by the size and beauty of the place. It was still beautiful even though the walls were soot stained and everything appeared gray.

As we entered the Grand Way, a hundred fully armed soldiers joined us. Some had bows and arrows while others had swords. I found it odd that in a world of teleporters and magic that people still used bows and swords. The gardens flourished and the fountains and ponds sprang to life as we moved towards the Grand Palace. It didn’t take long for the Cumberling guards to spot us and raise the alarm. Guards ran to high vantage points and began firing arrows at us. I threw up a shield and protected the entire group, much to everyone's amazement. We continued forward.

When the Cumberling guards realized their arrows were doing no good, some ran, but others formed a line before the huge double doors leading into the Grand Palace ballroom. There was no way their smaller force could defend the palace from the large group that had gathered behind me. We were now fifty feet from the doors. Twenty armed guards stood in our way looking very nervous.

"I am Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday, rightful Queen of Nealander. I've come to take back possession of the Grand Palace that belongs to all the people. We don't want to hurt anyone. Step aside."

They looked at me and at the hundreds of fighting men and people that had joined our group and nervously bowed their heads and stepped aside. "Rictalous and Dartagnen. Please disarm these guards but do not detain or hurt them."

I looked at the doors and in my mind I spoke "open". They opened outward at my request and I continued forward into the Grand Palace. As soon as Toor and I stepped inside a barrage of arrows came straight for us. My shield went up and the arrows burst into flames and fell as ash to the ground. More of the fighting men poured inside behind us and trained their arrows on the Cumberling guards. At the far end of the ballroom stood two men and a woman. They were obviously leaders. Toor and I walked forward and I waved Rictalous and Dartagnen to stay back for now. Talyn walked by my side. I dismounted when we were within twenty feet of the throne.

The woman looked very dignified and the two men were equally imposing. One hurled a large and powerful fireball at me. My shield came up and dissipated the blast easily. I lifted the man off the ground and focused on restoring the great room. A burst of color radiated out from me as the entire ballroom was renewed.

"So you do exist after all." The woman took a few steps forward. She appeared very confident. "You even have a white Antallas with you. How legendary. Put my nephew down please. He won't attack anymore." I lowered the man back to the ground. Not sure why I would even listen to this woman. She had a powerful presence and beauty about her. I watched her walked around me, her fingertips gliding across my shoulder armor. "What do they call you?"

"I am Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday. And who might you be?"

"Such a royal name. I'm Excellor Cumberling, Queen of Nealander. I'm afraid you missed my husband, the King. He is with our military right now. You can kneel to me now and pay homage to your Queen."

"I'll not kneel to you."

"Let me tell you a story... Twenty years ago my husband and I were serving this great land. At the request of Cristophos and Annbella, your parents and King and Queen of Nealander, we were on a mission to find the source of prophecy. My husband and I travelled throughout the empire until one day we discovered an ancient underground city. We searched through the ancient remains until we stumbled upon a burial chamber. Within the burial chamber were many writings. We discovered two prophecies amongst the writings. One, which I'm sure you are aware of. The second described another couple, one with strength in two disciplines and the other strength in one. According to the writings, both prophecies exist at the same time."

"Why does this matter?"

"Because my pretty little princess, the second prophecy was about my husband and me. It told that Nealander and the worlds beyond would be united by us and led us to the tools to make that happen. You may have won the day, but you'll not win the war." With that she reached to her side and produced a sword of light. She thrust it towards me. My shield came up instantly but her sword passed right through and into my abdomen. My hands went to my stomach as I collapsed to the ground. A wave of wind came from her and Talyn was tossed to the side. I was losing my strength rapidly and bleeding excessively. Everything was growing dark. In my mind I heard the words of Toor. "Heal yourself" I concentrated on healing as I drifted into unconsciousness.

I swam up from the depths of darkness and into the light. My eyes opened to see Talyn cradling me in her arms and a very concerned look on her face. "I thought I'd lost you, Serenity. You're still bleeding. Can you heal yourself?"

I still felt weak but I must have healed myself a little before lapsing into unconsciousness. I closed my eyes to focus on my healing. It was hard to focus with the pain but slowly the pain ebbed away and I found my strength returning. I looked back into Talyn's eyes. "I think I'm alright now. Why didn't my shield work? What happened?"

"Legend has it that before mankind ruled here there was another race. This race had fought against the people of magic. For a while they were defeated, but one day things changed. The race discovered the ability to negate magic with special weapons of light. The battle raged back and forth for years, but finally the race without magic was defeated. The Cumberlings must have stumbled upon these old weapons."

"I should have handled this differently. It's my fault. What happened with the Cumberlings?"

"It's not your fault. If anything, it was ours. We should have been here to properly protect you. The Cumberlings got away. We have the Grand Palace which means we have the city. Can you stand?" Talyn helped me to my feet. The ballroom was filled with people that all bowed deeply as I stood.

"Who are all these people?" I whispered to Talyn.

"They followed the life you created and came to see their Queen."

"Some Queen I turned out to be. What about the people in the dungeons. Have they been freed yet?"

She lowered her voice to a mere whisper. "Tiger. No one knew those weapons even existed. The important thing is you're alive. We need your help to get into the dungeons. They magically locked them somehow."

Rictalous and Dartagnen stepped forward. They bowed low which drove me crazy. "We're so sorry, my Queen. We relied too heavily on your abilities and that put you at risk. We also never planned on the Cumberlings leaving from a back route. If you wish to depose us we fully understand."

"Depose you for a mistake? If Talyn gave up on me every time I made a mistake I'd not be here today. We live and learn and move on. I trust you both and I rely on your judgment."

"We won’t fail you again, my Queen."

"I don't care if you fail. I care if someone gets hurt. I only ask that we all try our best and I mean me most of all."

"The people want to throw a feast in your honor, my Queen."

"The same people that barely have enough to eat themselves want to throw me a feast?" They nodded.

"Toor?"

"Yes, Serenity. I apologize for not being aware the weapons of light had been discovered."

"Not you too. Our task hasn’t changed, it's just become more challenging. I was a fool to believe I could ride in here on your back and the kingdom would be ours with no one getting hurt. Can you stay for a day?"

"As long as you need me."

"If we rode throughout the city and immediate countryside, could we restore it in a day?"

"Yes. You could perhaps do this yourself, but until you learn how to control your magic, it would be easier for you with me."

"Thank you, Toor."

"Tell the people we can plan on a feast in two days. I'll not allow them to honor me before I can restore their land."

"They need to hear you, my Queen. Perhaps you can say a few words to them."

I sighed and walked over to a raised area within the ballroom. The people filled the great room to capacity and more were coming in and they all bowed low as they saw me. I tried to speak clearly and loudly. I was grateful the acoustics of the place were so good.

"Good and faithful people of Haffrin. Please rise for I am not a person anyone needs to bow to. If anything, I need to seek your forgiveness." There was much murmuring about what I just said. "My parents, Christophos and Annabella Amiday, had me raised on planet Earth. I was unaware of the plight you were all suffering with. I've only known of you and even who I am for several days. I'm sorry I couldn't serve and protected you like I should have. Forgive me."

There were shouts of "No!", "It's not your fault", and "We love you!" throughout the crowd.

"I don’t know what being a Queen is all about. I am who I am. My desire is to help you in any way I can." I paused. "I understand you want to throw a feast in my honor but I cannot allow that until you all have food on your own plates." Toor came up behind me and I absentmindedly stroked his regal head. People were enthralled. "This is Toor, King of the Antallas. He and I will work together to restore the city and cause the land to bring forth its harvest. When that's complete, we can celebrate."

I looked down to see the little boy and his mother who was beaming with pride. I motioned to the little boy to come to me. I picked him up. Tears fell from my eyes as I saw the state of the clothes he was wearing. The crowd hushed and fell silent. "This boy and his mother are survivors. There are many more like them through this city and there are many who were loyal to the royal family that remain locked in the dungeons. I must go to help free them but I will not rest until every one of you have food on your plates."

The crowd cheered so loudly I feared the building might collapse. I stepped down to see Talyn and the others wiping tears from their eyes. "Let's free our people."

They led me through the palace and down into the dungeons. Massive wooden doors would not respond to my "open" request. I was afraid to use a fireball as I had no idea what was behind the doors. A stream of water trickled under the doors in a little trough cut in the stone floor. I concentrated on the water and lifted it up between the cracks of the wooden doors. When I felt the cracks were filled with water I turned it to ice. The water expanded as it froze putting tremendous pressure on the door. The door began to crack and splinters of wood broke free. Finally the hinges popped and the doors collapsed inward.

"That was amazing. How did you know that would work?"

"I remembered a rock slide on Earth that was caused by water freezing in the cracks of the rocks. I thought it might be worth a try."

I looked ahead into the dark hallways. I could hear moaning. Torches lines the walls. I delicately lit them one by one until the hallway was bright enough to see. What I saw I wished I hadn't. People were crammed into dirty and filthy cells. In places their skin was rotting from their bodies. They were alive, but barely. I went from cell to cell and ask the people to step back as I melted the iron locks. Each person that came out I touched and healed as much as I could. There were thousands. I was exhausted by the time we released half of the prisoners but I kept going. We found Dartagnen's family in one cell. He looked at me with such thankfulness it filled me with extra energy to continue. At the last cell and the last person I collapsed from exhaustion.

Part 9

I woke in a large bed with Talyn nestled beside me. It was so peaceful without throngs of people bowing to me. I kissed Talyn lightly and slipped out of bed to let her sleep. I felt refreshed and renewed. This room was larger and far more elaborate than the previous palace. I wondered how we got in here. This room had two balconies on either side. I changed my clothing and stepped out the balcony to view a scene of such beauty and devastation. A lake with a waterfall from snow capped mountains in the distance and a dying forest spread out before me. The water was murky. It must have been gorgeous at one point. I turned and headed to the other balcony. I opened the doors and a cheer arose from thousands of people below. It's as if they were waiting for a glimpse of me. I waved and curtseyed to them before hurrying back inside.

Talyn was up and was watching me. Her eyes moist. "My darling, my love, my Betrothed. You give and give and when it hurts you, you give some more. You'd been injured and yet you rescued and healed every prisoner in the dungeons at substantial risk to yourself. I know I fell in love with the right person."

I swept her into my arms and kissed her. "I hope one day we'll have time for ourselves."

"We will, Tiger. We will. Are you feeling well? Well enough to start the day?"

"Not until I taste your lips a few more times. How did I get here?"

"I carried you. The royal room opened to me which is an interesting thing. That tells me you've truly given me your heart completely."

"I can’t believe you carried me. You've had my heart from the first time I remember seeing you."

"I wouldn’t let anyone else touch you. Beyond those doors will be many people wanting to speak with you and serve you. You must be prepared."

"I can’t go back to bed with you?"

"Sorry, Tiger. It's a good thing you were exhausted otherwise I would have taken advantage of you." She winked.

"Promises promises. Okay. I'm as ready as I'll ever be."

"One more thing. I was able to access the vault. The Council now has your tiara to bestow upon you. That will likely occur tomorrow night at the feast."

"I was wondering. How do I pay for things? If I wanted to buy you a dinner or a glass of wine for example."

"You're the Queen. People would give you those things."

"But that's not right. Do I have a bank account or a credit card I can use?"

"If you wish to pay then the royal funds would be used. They're transferred automatically when you approve the purchase."

"How do I track how much we have?"

"Let's just say, you'll never have to worry about that in your lifetime. The Royal family receives donations and there's a lot of money in there."

"Good, because I want to take you to dinner tonight."

"A date?"

"Yes. That is if you want to."

"I'd love that. But remember, the other day in the tavern when you called me Betrothed? The people there didn’t know what to think because you just shattered the entire caste system in one sentence. It will be hard for them to fathom you've chosen me."

"It's like 20,000 Leagues under the Sea."

"Huh?"

"20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Lots of fathoms. Let them fathom all they want. I want the world to know you’re the one I choose."

"You still have to work on your analogies, Tiger. They're sweet, but terrible." She kissed me. "Let's go."

The door opened into the Grand Hall and there was much commotion. Rictalous immediately came to my side and told me about his plans for re-establishing the Royal Guard. I spotted Dartagnen off to the side. "Wait a minute Rictalous." I walked over to Dartagnen. "How's your family? You should be with them."

"They're fine thank to you, my Queen. There is much to do and you need my support."

"You're right, Dartagnen. I do need your support, but not today. Go and be with your family. Let's prioritize what's most important. The Militia can wait a few days. We have a city to restore and Rictalous and the others can help me with that."

His smile exploded across his face. "Thank you, my Queen." He rushed off.

"Okay, back to the plans. I'm sorry, Ricatlous that I cut you off."

"That's quite alright, my Queen. I'm glad you did that for him. He's not seen his family for two years. You have a busy day ahead of you. Please trust me in that I have the Royal Guard under control and we have fully secured the Grand Palace and are working throughout the city. All remnants of the Cumberlings should be removed by the end of the day."

"That's great news, Rictalous. You've done an exceptional job."

"You should know that I've had thousands of requests to serve you. I've had to turn many away. People adore you, my Queen."

"Remind those that don’t have the qualifications for you that we need everyone to re-establish their businesses and families. An economy won’t work well if everyone is employed by the Royal Family."

"I will, my Queen."

He stepped away and Talyn quickly introduced me to the Council. I was happy to meet them.

"I'm told that I need to present to you my Betrothed so that we can be wed."

"Yes, my Queen. We understand you chose Talyn. This is very unorthodox and has caused much discussion within the Council already."

"You'll find me to be a very amicable and flexible person, however, I love Talyn and I will marry her with or without the Council's blessing. This may be the only time I won’t at least consider options."

"That won’t be a problem, my Queen. It's good to see that you're willing to stand up for what you believe is right. As long as you're aware of the precedence this will create within the kingdom, the Council will support you. We can tentatively set the date sixty days from now."

"Is there any way we could speed that timeline up?" I looked longingly at Talyn.

"I'm very sorry, my Queen. Our traditions dictate that certain steps must be accomplished. You might not have an idea of the planning that goes into a royal wedding. We'll do our best. Tomorrow, we'd like to present you with your tiara and fully restore you as Queen. It would be a good time to also announce the royal wedding."

"That will be fine. I look forward to making sure everyone knows about Talyn."

The number of people dwindled and I was able to step outside and find Toor. Four other Antallas were with him.

"Good morning, Toor. Are you ready for the day?"

"The Antallas don't sleep, Serenity. I understand you've chosen your mate and as your protector she will not want to be far from you. She can ride one of the other Antallas. The rest will be for your royal escort."

"Thank you."

I turned to Talyn and Rictalous. "Talyn, you and Rictalous can ride the Antallas with me. There are two more we can use for additional escorts if needed."

"I've already secured two additional Royal Guards."

Talyn came to my side and placed her hand on my arm. "You're still exhausted and need rest but I know you and you'll not rest today."

"You're right. I'll rest better knowing these people have food. Protocol or not, I hope you can ride next to me. Is there a special outfit we can wear to show people we are together?"

"I'll be right by your side. You can wear what you're wearing now and I can sync my clothing to show we're together. It's a cool little trick to make our outfits look different, yet coordinated. You sure you don’t want to change your mind about me?"

"I'll never change my mind about you, my Betrothed." Talyn changed her clothing which made her look absolutely stunning. "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

"I guess you don’t look at yourself in a mirror then." Talyn winked and we all got on our Antallas.

"Serenity, if you keep your focus on restoration the magic will spread further."

Rictalous stepped up beside me. "I can lead as I know the streets so we cover as much of the city with the least amount of overlap. The two guards will follow you and Talyn. Are you ready, my Queen?"

"I'm ready."

I looked back at the throngs of people that had come out for a glimpse of me. I wondered how anyone could be so valued by a group of people. They don’t even know me and yet they love me. We started off and I focused on restoration and growth like Toor had suggested. People had come out of their homes and businesses to wave at us as we passed. They would yell out "We love you, our Queen." Others would comment that Talyn and I were so beautiful. Periodically I'd look over at Talyn who seemed to be enjoying the experience of riding an Antallas. I watched her lithe body shift and move as the Antallas moved. I found it strange that I hadn't thought of my transformation for a while. I looked down at my long smooth legs and the way my breasts moved. My hair gently floated with the breeze. I realized I finally felt free. It was almost a buoyant feeling like my old body had been weighed down. In a way it felt like my old life had never really existed.

"What are you thinking, my Betrothed? You look distant."

"Perhaps I'm just a little tired, but I was thinking about my old life. I feel so wonderful and different. Almost as if my previous life never existed. I was wondering what we need to say to my parents and how they would know we were not lying."

"I've given that some thought as well. We'll have to go back soon. Possibly tomorrow. Then we can focus on the celebration tomorrow night and the remaining tasks here." I nodded.

It was late early afternoon when we had traversed the entire city and travelled some distance into the forest and along the lake. We came upon a rise and looked down on the city. It was spectacular. The grayness had gone and life and color spread out in all directions. I looked at Talyn who seemed to have a constant smile on her face. Seeing her home transformed rose her spirit greatly. "You ready for our date?"

"I'm starved."

"Good. Me too. Let's head back into the city then." I waved Rictalous back and whispered to him. He nodded and continued to lead the way. He led us to the garden that Talyn and I first arrived in. We all dismounted. The Antallas headed back to the forest and Rictalous and the guards reluctantly left Talyn and me alone.

I took Talyn's hand in mine and walked her into the garden. There a table had been set up and a meal was spread out. Humbert stood by to greet us. "Humbert, thank you for doing this for us."

"It's my honor, my Queen. When people find out that I fed the royal family, my tavern's business will thrive."

"Did you also bring the extra food I was hoping for?"

"I did, my Queen. I hope you both enjoy your meal."

Humbert bowed and left leaving Talyn and I alone in the garden. I pulled the chair for Talyn and then sate down myself. "I love you, Talyn. I couldn't have done this without you."

Talyn's eyes were moist. "When did you set this up?"

"This morning. I asked Rictalous to send a messenger to Humbert. I wanted our second date to be special. Although it will be tough to beat our first date."

She reached over and grabbed my hand. "When I was given the assignment to watch over you I was a little upset. I'd do anything for your parents and considered it an honor, but it meant I'd put my life on hold for all those years. I longed for a family of my own. In all my years, I've never felt so loved and cherished as I do by you. I love you, Tiger."

We enjoyed our meal and talked into the early evening. It felt so good to have this time with Talyn. "I've got one stop to make before we head back to the palace." I picked up a sack that had been left near us and I took Talyn's hand and we started walking. We came to the home of the boy with his mother and I knocked on the door. The mother appeared and seemed quite astonished that we were there. "I promised I'd be back. This is for you." I handed her the sack and she looked inside.

"This is enough food for us for a month, my Queen. Our garden is blooming. I'm blessed that you've taken an interest in my family. I can’t express to you enough how much this means to us."

"We're happy to help anyway we can."

"I have something for you, my Queen." She went inside and rummaged through some drawers. She produced a box that held a ring. "This ring has been handed down to me through the generations. I was told when my mother gave it to me that there may be a time when I know I'm supposed to give it to someone. I've felt in my heart that the person I'm supposed to give it to is you. The history of this ring is that it belonged to an ancestral magician in the war against the Ottomanals. It was supposed to protect the wearer against weapons of light."

I looked at Talyn and she nodded. "Thank you. I'll treasure your gift."

"You've already done more for me and my family than anyone I know. It's an honor to have met you, my Queen."

We left and walked back towards the Grand Palace. Being a magic conduit was still taxing and I could tell I was exhausted. Talyn took my arm in hers.

"You're doing a great job, Tiger. Look at this place. Who would have known that in twenty-four hours you could do so much? You've secured the capital, released the prisoners, restored the land here, and the people truly adore you. Tomorrow morning we'll go back to Earth to speak with your parents. I'm still not sure what we say to them."

"Every once in a while I get these strange thoughts that I wish I could go back to my life in high school, but as me now. Is it wrong of me to want to flaunt that I'm not an ugly boy anymore to those that were so abusive?"

"Not at all. I think that would be natural. Most of those people have already long forgotten about you and will be finding other people to try to dominate. When you think about it, they likely have missing or emotionally abandoning parents or insecurities that caused them to be the way they are. Have you ever thought that the injustice of your life is what drove you to become someone that demands justice?"

"I never thought about it that way. I was hoping it was just good genes. Why is transformation magic not a discipline?"

"Do you recall your studies in high school about alchemy?"

"Yes."

"The transformation art is more like alchemy. The process by which elements are manipulated or changed leverages magical catalysts. The person performing a transformation doesn't hold any magic themselves, but alters genes and chromosomes. In your case, she borrowed her son's DNA, used a magical catalyst, and masked your existing DNA."

"Why do I suddenly feel so bad for her son?"

"Couldn’t she have used the DNA from my father? He was at least handsome."

"They wanted you to not have any link to them. There are tests that can identify DNA. They'll perform that test on you tomorrow before they crown you Queen. It’s a mere formality in your case because everyone can see the resemblance and no one can deny your magic."

"When we go tomorrow, how are we going to prove I'm their son?"

"You'll just have to show them you have intimate knowledge of George. Do you miss being George at all? Or being a man?" She looked a little shy as she asked that question.

"No! I'd never want to be George again! I'm not sure I was or am ready to be Queen, but there is something so wonderful about this body I have. I doubt I would survive if I was ever changed back."

"What about... you know...?" Talyn was blushing. I don’t recall ever seeing her blush this strongly before.

"You mean what that difference is like?" She nodded, still blushing. "I don’t know."

"What do you mean you don’t know? You haven't...?"

I shook my head. "Believe me, I've wanted to so badly. I just want my first time to be with you." Now I was blushing and feeling quite embarrassed.

"Sixty days... That's going to be so long! I promise you I'll not... Uhm... I want you to know I've never been with anyone before. I've pleasured myself... But never has someone touched me. You'll be my first. Sixty days... This is going to be torture."

Part 10

The next morning I woke up and Talyn had not come into the room yet. I sighed. The previous day when Talyn had been in bed with me when I woke up felt so right. This large bed was lonely and I longed for her presence and to be in her arms. I changed into my regal outfit and found some food. I placed the food on a tray and walked over to Talyn's room. The door opened to my command and I slipped inside. Talyn was stirring in bed. I looked down at her exquisite form, her perfect face, and how the sheet was slid back to expose her body in her nightgown.

I placed the food on a nightstand and pulled the sheet up to help me avoid temptation. I crawled onto her bed and simply stared at Talyn. Her eyes fluttered open and looked into mine. A wide smile formed on her face. "You didn't wake me?"

"How could anyone wake you? You're like a Michelangelo sculpture. So beautiful and so delicate. You're an angel."

"That was the best analogy you've ever had. I'm looking forward to waking up to you everyday, and I'm really looking forward to what precedes falling asleep. Fifty-nine days and counting... That's a lifetime!"

I leaned over and kissed her. "I brought you some breakfast."

"You know there are servants for that?"

"And deny me the opportunity of seeing you half naked? Not a chance."

Talyn giggled. "You ready to meet the world outside your door?"

"Only if I have to." Talyn got up, changed, and kissed me long and hard.

As before, there were many people waiting for me outside my door. The Council was there and requested a blood sample which I gave them. They said the crowning would start at tarn 70 followed by the feast at tarn 73 and a dance at tarn 80. We told them of our plans to travel back to Earth for the day to allow me to wrap up loose ends of my life back there. They were pleased as long as I was back by tarn 60. Somehow I felt a little like a kid again with a curfew.

Rictalous told me he was prepared for the feast and the ceremony. He mentioned that his scouts had seen the Cumberling army in another province. It appeared they were heading for the Grand Portal. It would take them about a week to stage themselves.

"Everything around here is grand. What's the significance of the Grand Portal?"

"That's where thousands of people can teleport simultaneously."

"Do we have any idea on where they're going?"

"We can think of only two places. The Meadows of Amondian, or Earth."

I raised my eyebrow at the sound of Earth. "Why either of those places?"

"The Meadows of Amondian is a strategic battle ground on Nealander. If I were preparing for a battle against the Royal family, that's where I'd go. Earth, is strategically the place with significant resources and people to conquer. By bringing magic rods, their magic could be used on Earth, making the subjugation of the people there far easier."

"Neither sounds good. Do you trust Taric and Galadon?"

"Yes, my Queen."

"Could they pass as Cumberling forces?"

"I'm sure they could. Ask them if they would help us infiltrate the Cumberlings. We need to find out their plans. If they feel it's too risky, I understand. I'll not force anyone into that situation."

"It's a good idea, my Queen. I'll ask them. I understand you're going back to Earth today?"

"Yes. My adopted parents will be wondering what happened to me. I need to bring closure to that situation."

"Be safe and return to us, my Queen. We need you more than you know."

"Thank you, Rictalous. I will."

Part 11

We teleported back to the cabin on Earth. Talyn handled the trip better than I did. I was shivering again when we arrived. I immediately tried to use my magic to warm myself up but it didn't work. Talyn wrapped us both in a blanket and held me close.

"I can’t believe it's been less than a week since we were last here. It feels like a lifetime." I looked over at my old clothes still sitting on the chair I had left them. I ran my fingers over them and shuddered. I looked into Talyn's eyes and started to cry.

"What's wrong, my love?"

"I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I love my new life, even though being a Queen is rather frightening. This place reminds me of what I once was. I never want to go back to that."

"Tiger, I know this is hard. I came to love Earth even though I missed Nealander. There are things I'll truly miss here. Given a chance, I would have wanted to spend another dozen years in your arms here after your transformation and before you becoming Queen. You have a great chance to affect many lives."

"I don't understand."

"Try not to think of being a Queen as a burden. Think of it as an opportunity. As George, what did you inspire to be?"

"I would have gone into computer programming or something like that."

"And at the end of your life as George, what would you have wanted to be your greatest accomplishment?"

"I don't know. I never thought about it."

"Over the past few days, what's been the most rewarding thing you've done?"

"Aside from kissing you everyday? That would be helping people."

"Now I want you to think about your life as George or perhaps not being a Queen. Do you think your life's legacy would be different?"

"There's no question, it would be less. I wouldn't have the chance to impact as many lives. I understand what you're telling me. As a Queen, I have infinitely more opportunity to positively or negatively impact people's lives. If I'm a good leader I could impact a world."

"And you are a good leader. Not one of your decisions has been self-serving with one exception."

I frowned sadly. "What was that?"

"When you told the Council you chose me and to plan our wedding. Of course, I readily agree that was the right decision. I just wish we could shorten the time frame."

"We could still go to Vegas."

"Don't tempt me, Tiger. It wouldn't take much to get me there." I watched her touch her necklace and transform her clothing into skin hugging jeans and a blouse. God she looked beautiful.

I touched my arm bracelet and thought of an Earth outfit and was suddenly attired in a beautiful red dress that went to my mid-thigh. Not that I minded as I'd become used to and enjoyed the dresses I'd been wearing. "How come I get a dress and you get jeans?"

"You're still a Queen, my love. Your bracelet doesn't know anything but elegant. Of course you look absolutely delicious." She wrapped her arms around me and kissed me, one hand dropped to my bum and squeezed lightly. "Mmmmm. Just be careful on the back of the motorcycle to make sure the dress doesn't fly up. I can’t have my Queen showing off her valuable assets."

We grabbed the helmets and Talyn rolled the motorcycle from the storage shed. She hopped on and started it up then told me to jump on. I had to fiddle a little getting the dress in such a way that it wouldn't fly up but soon we were cruising down the highway back to my old house.

When we arrived at my place, I was very nervous. How was I going to prove who I was to them? Would they even care? My heart raced as I knocked on the door. Walking in wouldn't have been appropriate. My parents were both home.

Talyn greeted them. "Hello Mr. and Mrs. Atherton. I was wondering if we could come in and talk to you a little about George."

"You're that Taylor girl aren't you? The one he always talks about."

"It's Talyn, but yes."

"I hope he found a job. Come in. Have a seat. Who's this pretty girl?"

"This is Serenity Amiday."

My dad seemed a little short on patience. "So what's this all about?"

"What if I told you that George found a new job?"

"That's great. He can start paying rent now. Where is he anyways? The lawn hasn't been mowed."

I was getting extremely nervous now and having a hard time sitting still. "I'm George!"

"What did you say?"

"I'm George. It's a long story but when you adopted me, you weren't aware of who I really was."

"Unless George got taller and far better looking you are obviously lying. Mabel, call the police."

"Wait. We're no threat to you. Ask me questions only George could know."

"This is ridiculous. Did George put you up to this?"

"As hard is this may sound, I'm George."

"On George's fifth birthday, what did we give him?"

"A used bicycle. It had a rusted front tire and the brakes didn’t work."

"What grade did he get on his ninth grade Spanish?"

"A 'B'. You were very upset that I got a 'B' and you grounded me for a week."

"Three years ago, George came home from school saying he'd been in a fight. We took him to the hospital for what injury?"

"You must be referring to the time that Thad threw me into a trash can. I had a cut on my forearm. You never took me to the hospital."

"Frank, how would this stranger know these things about us and George?"

"Can we tell you a story of how this came to be?"

They nodded and sat down. "Is that really you, George?"

"Yes, mom."

"Oh don't lead them on, Mabel. This is ridiculous."

Talyn shared the entire story. The more she shared the less they seemed to believe. I stood up. "I know this is hard to believe, it's hard for me too." I tapped my arm bracelet and changed to my Queenly outfit. I nodded to Talyn to change her clothing as well.

"That's unbelievable! How does that work?"

"It's magic, mom." I changed again into my battle armor, then again back into my dress. "Can we take them to Nealander, Talyn? Would you like to see my new home?"

"We can take them. Perhaps they would want to see your coronation?"

"Frank? What if they're telling the truth?"

"All right, let's humor them. Take us to this 'other' planet you're talking about."

"You'll need to follow us."

We left the house and I climbed back on the motorcycle with Talyn. This all sounded so strange even to me. I didn’t blame them that they were skeptical. I wrapped my arms around Talyn and held her tight. What do people say? That you can’t go home again?

When we reached the cabin I felt a tingling sensation. My magic had returned. I could sense it. I took my helmet off and mom and dad got out of their car. My dad started to say something but I cut him off. "Something's wrong. Talyn get ready." She changed to her warrior outfit and drew her sword. My mom and dad looked at us like we were putting on an elaborate show. "If I have my magic here, that means the Cumberlings must be here and brought magic rods."

Sure enough, a ball of flame hurtled towards us. I tossed my shield over us and the ball of fire sizzled against it. My mom screamed. "You're okay. We'll keep you both safe. Just stay close." Suddenly two Cumberling guards rushed forward and trailing them was Excellor's nephew. I drew water from the lake and formed a wall of ice in front of the guards who promptly crashed headlong into it. I dissolved the wall and lifted them both off the ground as I walked forward.

Excellor's nephew frowned. "We meet again Serenity. My aunt wouldn’t let me handle the situation back at the Grand Palace. You should have never come back. You and yours will be destroyed." He tossed back his head and laughed, then raised a crossbow-like device and shot an arrow of light towards me. Talyn was there in a flash to protect me, but suddenly my ring flashed and a bolt of light left my finger and dissolved the arrow mid flight. Excellor's nephew turned to run. I put a shield around him and dragged him back towards us.

"Dad?" I looked back at my dad who was literally shaking. His entire worldview had collapsed. "Dad?" He looked me in the eyes. "Can you check the shed for some rope?" He nodded and ran into the shed and came out a few moments later with some rope. "I know you're good at tying knots, dad. Can you and Talyn tie these fellows up?" I disarmed the guards and lowered them one at a time to be tied.

When the guards were tied I held the nephew inside a shield and brought him to the teleporter closet. "Talyn, I can go back to the Grand Palace with these fellows. Can you bring mom and dad right after?"

"I will, my Lady." My mom looked at Talyn strangely. I wasn't sure why Talyn used 'my Lady'.

Part 12

Moments later I was standing in the Grand Palace with Rictalous and Dartagnen by my side. Talyn arrived shortly thereafter with my parents.

"Rictalous. We ran into these unexpected guests. This one is a fire magician so be careful with him. We'll want to learn from them what they were planning on Earth."

"Yes, my Queen. We can neutralize his magic. And who are these people?"

"They are my parents from Earth. They raised me. Please meet Frank and Mabel Atherton."

Rictalous and Dartagnen bowed towards them. "You're both highly honored here. Your daughter, our Queen, is loved and adored by all. She has already led us to victory in taking back our capital city. My Queen, it's tarn 60 and the coronation and feast start at tarn 70. Will you be ready in time?"

My mom and dad didn’t know what to say. "We'll be ready, Rictalous. Thank you for taking care of these loose ends for me." I nodded towards the Cumberlings.

"My pleasure, my Queen."

I turned to Talyn and my parents "A lot has happened in the past few hours. Why don’t you come to my room?" I led my awestruck and silent parents to my room and opened the balcony doors that overlooked the lake. "I realize this is a lot to absorb. I'm sure you have questions."

I watched my mom and dad stare breathlessly at the view before them. "We're really on another planet?"

"Yes. Have you ever seen plants like these before?"

"No. They're beautiful. What happened back there at the cabin? Why are people trying to kill you? You've been in a battle?"

I walked them back into the bedroom. Above the fireplace was another portrait of my real parents. "These were my real parents. Christophos and Anabella Amiday. They were King and Queen of Nealander, this planet and empire. When I was born, there was a prophecy about me. My parents transformed me and sent me with Talyn to Earth to protect me. My parents were killed by the people that attacked us today. My return thwarts their plans for taking over Nealander, Earth, and other planets."

"You really are George? Our George. You're so different. So regal and decisive now. Did your transformation hurt? You're really Queen? We never knew."

"Yes, I'm George but I'm called Serenity now. Talyn was with me on my eighteenth birthday. She put me to sleep and I didn't feel a thing during my transformation. Yes... Queen. It's rather strange for me to go from not having any responsibilities to managing a kingdom. I'm also getting married."

"What?" My dad sat down on a couch. "I'm having a hard time with all of this. In the past few hours I found out my son was a girl, magic exists, and there's life on other planets. Even if I forget that you're a queen and there is some global war going on, this is all too much." He sighed and put his head in his hands. "I know we were never the best parents. We weren't ready to be parents. We gave you a roof over your head and food to eat. But to think I have a daughter and you're getting married? Who are you marrying?"

I pulled Talyn to my side. "I know two women marrying isn't a very popular thing on Earth, but I'm in love with Talyn and I've always been in love with her. That never changed when I transformed."

My mom looked from me to Talyn. Talyn seemed to shrink a little under my mom's gaze. My dad simply shook his head. "My son's a girl who's a lesbian. Do you have any Aspirin?" My mom looked at me and at Talyn.

"I think they make a good looking couple, Frank. I've always wanted a daughter. Just look at her. She's beautiful."

"George? I mean Serenity? What happens now? Are we still your parents? Do you have to wipe our memory and send us back?"

"You raised me. You'll always be my parents. Obviously I'll not be needing my room anymore as I have obligations here. I'd love it if you could stay for the ceremony and be here for my wedding. I understand if you don't."

My mom came over and hugged me, which was so uncharacteristic of her. "We'd love to stay. Right Frank?" It was more of a statement and less of a question.

"Perhaps you would like a tour of the Palace in the meantime? I'm sure until after the dinner I might not have much time but I promise to visit you. You could stay the night then we could get you back to the cabin in the morning."

"Serenity, we've talked more in the past few hours than we have in the past few months combined. I hope you can one day forgive us and we can maintain our relationship."

"There's nothing to forgive. I admit I had my disappointments, but one thing I've learned since I came here is that my life could've been so much worse. Everything is relative and until you see with your own eyes what it could've been like, then you never understand what you had all along. I could've been a better son to you. I just hope that no matter what happens, we'll always have each other."

My mom's eyes were tearing up as I walked them back into the Grand Hall. As usual there were a dozen or so people waiting to do my bidding so it was easy to find someone willing to take my parents on a tour and make sure they had a place of honor at the feast. Others were wanting to prepare me for the coronation. I gently declined them for the bathing help but allowed them to assist me with the hair and clothing perspective.

Talyn and I headed back into my room. As soon as the door was closed she ran her fingers along my bare arm. Little electric shocks pulsed through my body at her touch. "I don’t know how you could do that, forgive them like that. They don't deserve the honor you're giving them."

"Perhaps it's all this new responsibility, but I think I'm looking at things through a different perspective now. They weren't the best parents by far, but they loved me in their own way and I was never abused. Besides, I've got enough enemies it seems in this world and we can always use a vacation home on Earth when the dust settles around here."

"You did the right thing. I'm going to get my bath and get ready. You should too." I watched her walk into her room. I turned and promptly walked into the wall. I started laughing at myself.

Part 13

I'd taken a long leisurely bath and let the stress wash away from me. I changed and let the women waiting outside help with my hair and final touches on clothing. They snapped a different jewel into my arm bracelet. I was intrigued and asked many questions. Apparently the device I had was for a princess and not for a queen. This jewel had far more clothing designs, ones specific for coronations, weddings, and dances. They had me change into my coronation outfit, one that had been designed specifically for me and my looks. How they had someone design it and put it into the jewel was beyond me.

They had worked on my hair and added some makeup before dragging me giggling in front of the mirror. I was quite the spectacle. The dress hugged my curves and accentuated my long legs and cleavage. Ruby red silk fabric was the primary color with shining silver highlights. Jewels were embedded throughout the dress. It was sexy and riveting.

It was nearing tarn 70 and Talyn came out of her room to join me. She was still my protector and would be by my side the entire night. She was dressed in a matching outfit, but the design was still highly functional. A long sword hung at her hip. Her brunette hair flowed over her shoulder. I took a deep breath in admiration.

The ladies in waiting led us both to the beginning of the Grand Way. Toor was there as well as a large black Antallas. It was suggested Talyn and I ride with both legs on one side. Rictalous and Dartagnen and a contingency walked in all their royal splendor in front of and behind us. The Grand Way was lined with adoring citizens who were cheering and bringing us flowers.

Once we arrived in the Grand Palace the pace slowed dramatically. Near the space where the throne was located the Council stood. My parents had changed clothing and looked very sophisticated. I was surprised at this, but they fairly well beamed with pride as they looked upon me. I dismounted with help from Rictalous. I placed my hand on Toor's head and thanked him. He and the other Antallas walked back out of the palace.

"People of Nealander and the city of Haffrin. The Council is pleased to announce that they have genetically verified that Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday is the daughter of Cristophos and Annabella Amiday. She is the rightful Queen of Nealander. It is our great pleasure to place this tiara, a symbol of the Royal family, upon her head and announce her Queenship." The Councilwoman stepped forward and placed the tiara on my head. "People of Nealander, please welcome Queen Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday."

The place erupted in applause and cheers. The sound was deafening. The Councilwoman raised her hand and everyone went silent. "Our Queen has indicated that she has already chosen a mate. We are proud to announce the upcoming wedding of Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday to Talyn Diane Hallidory." More cheers arose as they took Talyn's hand and placed it into mine. "Please welcome your new First Lady in Waiting, Talyn Diane Hallidory."

I was surprised to see what sort of commotion this caused within the crowd of people. Apparently choosing someone of a lower class was groundbreaking.

"Let the feast begin!"

We sat at a table near my parents and enjoyed the company and conversation of those people around us. It wasn't long into the feast that I'd had more than enough food and I took Talyns hand in mine as we mingled with the crowd. We stopped by to see my parents how seemed to be getting along well with Dartagnen and his family.

"How is everyone doing tonight?"

"I'm still coming to grips with the revelations we've heard and seen. Your mother and I are very proud of you and worried at the same time. We understand a war is brewing. We don't want anything to happen to you."

Dartagnen spoke, helping me to avoid saying something I wasn't too sure about myself. "Don't worry, Frank. There are tens of thousands of people that will willingly lay their life down to protect your daughter. We won't let anything happen to her."

"Dartagnen, how's your family doing?"

"Fine thanks to you, my Queen. I've some new reports for you, but they can wait until morning."

I nodded and hugged my parents before continuing on through the ballroom. Talyn and I shook people’s hands and introduced ourselves. Everywhere we went we were warmly received.

The feast had come to an end and the band started to play. It was customary for the Queen and her partner to lead the dance. "I don’t know how to dance." I was so embarrassed.

Talyn led me to the center of the ballroom. She whispered in my ear. "Don’t worry about not knowing how to dance. Just follow my lead." She took my hand in hers as the music started to play. Her other hand snuggly held my waist and she pulled me close. I did my best to try to relax and let her guide my movements. Soon we were spinning and twirling around the dance floor. Others came to join us and I stopped focusing on what people were thinking and what I was feeling in the arms of Talyn. I looked up into her eyes and felt her love for me. Her hand slipped a little lower on my back and our bodies were pressed up against each other's. I was flushed and breathing quickly.

"Do you know what the touch of your body is doing to me?"

"Probably the same thing yours is doing to me. I'm trying hard not to make a spectacle of us in front of all these people."

"May I cut in?" My father stood nearby. Talyn smiled and let me go and went to stand next to my mother.

My father bowed slightly and took my hand in his. It was a strange feeling. My mind was rebelling a little, but my heart seemed to think this was a good thing for both of us. We danced in silence for a while until he finally began to talk.

"Your mother and I couldn’t have children. That's why we adopted you."

"I never knew that. I'm sorry that I didn't turn out to be everything you expected. And this... all of this... It's a lot to consider."

"Don’t ever think that we weren't proud of you. We love you, I hope you know that. We were broken people. When we married, we dreamed of having a girl and a boy. We'd all these dreams. I pictured myself at my daughter's father/daughter dance, giving her away at her wedding. Your mother... All she ever wanted was to have children. When we couldn’t we were both devastated. Broken. By adopting you we thought that would fix our pain. It didn't."

"Dad, in many ways, I was pretty self-centered. I focused on what I wasn't rather than what I was. I didn't make a very good boy. In my heart I always felt I should've been born a girl. As it turns out, I had been. I guess in a way we were all a little broken. I can tell you now that I finally feel like who I was always supposed to be."

"It'll take us a little time to get over the shock of everything. I can’t tell you how much better I feel to be dancing with my daughter right now. This whole thing may finally bring some healing to us. I'm hoping I'll be able to give you away for your wedding."

"I'm not sure of the customs here, but I'll make a point of gently requesting it. No one seems to challenge any of my requests, that's what makes being a Queen so worrisome. You never know if people are merely placating to you."

My mother came by and cut in on me so she could dance with my dad. They actually looked happy. I was smiling as I watched the two. Talyn had come to stand beside me and took my hand in hers. "I hope my parents are as understand as yours have been."

"Oh my gosh! You have parents I have to meet?"

"Of course, silly. They always had hopes for me to be married off to a wealthy man. They even had one picked out amongst their friends. I haven't seen them for almost twenty years. I've sent for them. They should be here in a week."

"Do they know about me and us yet?"

"No... I was sort of hoping you'd save the world first to make sure you leave a good impression on them. They can be a little hard to please sometimes."

"So... what you're saying is... If I save the world they might accept me?" She nodded. "I'm glad it's not something difficult like saving the universe."

Talyn laughed. "It's my choice and they'll live with it."

"I hope so. We've had a busy day. Shall we retire for the evening?"

"It'll take us a few tarns to get through the crowd and to your room anyways. Let's say goodnight to your parents. We can see them off in the morning."

Part 14

The next morning was a flurry of activity. Talyn, having now become the First Lady in Waiting, had to be 'processed' by the council. That meant she needed to have her blood taken, family history gathered, and initial plans for her gown started. We'd taken my parents back to the cabin and sent them on their way. We returned to find a war council scheduled.

"We've received word from Taric and Galadon. The Cumberling army is heading to the Meadows of Amondian. They made an excursion to Earth, but decided that attack should come after defeating you."

"Do we have a map of the area? They'll get there well in advance of us and will have positioned themselves in the best possible location."

Dartagnen tossed a gem onto the table that projected a three dimensional map of the Meadows. It was clear there was only one way to approach where the main Cumberling army would be situated. The prevailing winds would give their army the edge with arrows and provide high ground.

"It's not a good place to choose to fight them, my Queen."

"Back on Earth I studied a battle that was similar to this geography. The army that held the land strategically set up defenses along the front where an opposing force had to come in from. It turned out to be a bloody battle and many people on both sides lost their lives. We have a few things that the Cumberlings aren't aware of."

"What is that, my Queen?"

"First, they likely only believe I have shields and telekinesis. Second, we have the Antallas. After studying the Earth battle, I wrote a research paper on how some changes to the attack could have still won the battle without so much bloodshed. If you look at the map, you can see that their backs are to cliffs on three sides. They'll not be expecting attack from those locations. What if I were to levitate small armies to each of those three locations? With Toor, my capabilities are stronger. We could put Antallas ridden armies ready to come in with a signal from us. Once they’re staged, we can lead a large force up the meadow. My control of wind would render their regular arrows useless and I could perhaps change the direction of the prevailing wind to give our archers the advantage. We'd be attacking along the route they expected and causing a distraction for our other armies to attack."

"This all sounds good, but can you lift several thousand troops? What about weapons of light? How are we going to protect you?"

"A woman in the city gave me this ring. I've already seen it destroy an arrow of light. While the weapons of light can go through a magic shield, I doubt they can penetrate a wall of ice. With Toor helping me channel my magic, it's possible I could levitate quite a few people at a time. I'm not sure how much I can lift. There's about twenty people in the room." I closed my eyes and concentrated. When I opened them everyone in the room was lifted off the ground. I gently put them down. "I can do more. I'm not a military strategist and I've never led an army into battle. I want you all to speak honestly and not agree to this idea just because I'm Queen. I must have good council if we're to reduce bloodshed."

"My Queen, this appears to be a good plan, but we can put more plans in place. We estimate the Cumberling army to be approximately twenty thousand men. We have around ten thousand. However, if we can put two thousand of our strongest magicians and fighters on Antallas, this will greatly compensate for our fewer numbers. I recommend we begin moving our armies as it will take several days to get them in position."

"Can we make the main army very visible? This way the Cumberlings might not see the smaller armies we position behind them."

"We can. The bigger question is how will we protect you, my Queen?"

"I don't feel right sending people into a battle where I don’t take just as much risk as they do."

"With all due respect, my Queen, if we fail to protect you then the battle is lost. Each of us has our specialties and we need to stay focused with what that is. You’ll be taxed helping us get the troops into position. You’ll expend a great deal of energy shielding and protecting troops. After the battle, there’ll be a need for healing. If you’re unable to perform your gifts then we lose. Having you in the thick of a sword fight doesn’t help the overall army win the day."

I put my head down with the immensity of the weight and burden of a war. I was only eighteen years old and people were going to die for me. "You're right, Dartagnen." I spoke softly and solemnly on the verge of tears. "I wish there was another way. What about cutting the head off the snake?"

"I beg your pardon, my Queen? What’s cutting the head off the snake?"

"It's a term used on Earth. Many wars are created and led by a few key people. We've witnessed how the Cumberling people are willing to turn if they're shown compassion and kindness. This speaks volumes about the leadership. If Excellor and her husband were removed, would the Cumberling faction collapse?"

"You're saying if Excellor and Magnus Cumberling are killed or captured would that be enough to avert the war?" I nodded knowing full well the implications of what that meant. "I believe that would be sufficient. However, they have twenty thousand warriors and magicians surrounding them."

I stood and walked to the window and looked out over the city. Talyn came and stood by my side and placed her hand on my arm. Her touch as exciting as ever, but muted with the burdens of an empire. "I know that look in your eyes, Tiger."

I turned to look Talyn in her eyes. I reached my hand to her cheek and stroked it lovingly. I knew what I had to do, yet those around me would never let me do it. My heart was breaking at the thought of never seeing Talyn again. Ignoring the people in the room I raised myself up on my toes and kissed Talyn long and gently. "I love you, Talyn. With every fiber in my being."

"No! You can't do this!"

Tears fell from my eyes and down my cheek. I looked around the room at people whom I'd grown to love and who didn’t know what I was thinking. "It’s how I'm wired, my love. If I can't protect those I love the most, how can I be Queen? I love you." The window opened at my command and I flew out towards the forest. Behind me I cringed as Talyn screamed.

Part 14

Talyn turned towards the stunned people in the room. She was shaking and crying. "My Betrothed and your Queen has chosen to sacrifice herself to spare unnecessary bloodshed! She's going to confront the Cumberlings on her own!"

Dartagnen stood with a pained look on his face. "How do you know this? Are you sure our Queen isn’t simply overwhelmed and needing some time alone?"

"I know Serenity. I've watched her grow up. She'd been small yet she would never back down. She would defend the weak even though she was weak herself. I saw the look in her eyes. A look of determination to protect everyone. She'll take on the entire Cumberling army on her own to not put anyone at risk. We have to move! Now!"

Shaken by the full force of understanding the people in the room became frantic. Dartagnen took control. "Listen to me! Our Queen is in mortal danger. She doesn't fully understand what she means to us all or what she represents. She's trying to protect us. With all her strength, she's yet fragile and young. We have to mobilize immediately. Rictalous. I need two hundred of your best fighters and magicians. I'll gather the same from the Militia. They need to be ready in an hour. I'll order the rest of the Militia to leave behind us."

Talyn ran beside Rictalous as they gathered what they needed. At the entrance to the palace four hundred Antallas stood waiting. Somehow they knew they were needed.

Part 15

Unaware of what we transpiring back at the palace I flew into the forest and landed in a meadow. Toor strode forth and placed his great head against my outstretched hand.

"Your actions have caused quite a stir, Serenity. Your armies are rushing to your aid. I sense a great determination and loss within you."

"I can't ask them to lay their lives down for me. If I can end this without bloodshed, then I protect them."

"The love you feel in your heart for them is the same love they feel for you. They have as much of a desire to protect you as you do them."

"Will you help me?"

"I'll honor our covenant."

"Can you take me to a teleporter?"

"I can take you instantly to the Meadows of Amondian if that's what you wish."

"I'd like that. Thank you, Toor." I changed into my Queenly battle armor. This time the outfit was slightly different. More regal if that was possible. Toor kneeled and I climbed up onto his back. He stood, took a few steps forward and suddenly we were in the Meadows of Amondian.

I looked around at the geography and realized I was standing at the entry point of the Meadows. Above me and straight ahead lies the entire Cumberling army. My arrival had not gone unnoticed and several thousand of the Cumberling army showed themselves. I urged Toor forward.

As we walked forward the ground began to slowly rise. Several hundred arrows were launched at me but they simply bounced off my shield. I brought up a wind from behind me to assist in carrying my voice. "I am Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday, Queen of Nealander. I'm hear to speak with Excellor and Magnus Cumberling. I come alone."

It was an eerie feeling walking forward knowing that twenty thousand warriors were all around me dead-set on killing me. A wall of warriors stood before me and slowly parted to let me through. I felt like a ship at sea casting a wake of warriors as they stepped away to give me room, then merged together after I passed by. I looked at them as I rode. Their hardened faces showed looks of confusion as I moved forward. Their tattered clothing and gaunt bodies showed signs of early starvation. This was what the Cumberlings offered. At one point I stopped and concentrated on restoration and growth. A shockwave of color spread out from me. Clothes were repaired, ripe fruit fell from the trees.

An older and large man stepped forward. "Why do this? Why come to your death yet restore the land?"

I looked down on the man with compassion. He was no different than me. No different than the men who had pledged themselves into my service. "Because there's a better way and all of you matter. Excellor and Magnus may indeed kill me, but I believe in doing so they would show themselves for what they truly are. No person, no matter how strong or great, can stand against the will of the people. I can’t defeat an army of twenty thousand. Sure, I could do some damage, but to what end? Look at each other. You're starving and mistreated. In the capital, people again have food. Their gardens are flourishing and their flocks are growing. I'm young and inexperienced and know nothing of leading an empire but I know enough to realize that good leaders serve their people, not expect the people to serve them. At the end of the day, I wish all of you well."

The older man looked at me contemplatively and vanished back into the rest of the warriors as I moved forward. It took another tarn to get to the central camp. Large and extravagant tents had been set up to host the leaders. It was a large open space. I could smell smoke from the fires. The army spread itself around me, giving ample room for an audience. Excellor and three other men came out from the largest tent. One man, looking very imposing. I assumed he must have been Magnus.

Excellor laughed. "My oh my... Our pretty little princess has come to pay us a visit. I see you healed up well. Darling, let me introduce you to Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday. She claims to be Queen. What do you think of that?"

"She's pretty and would likely make me some good looking children. It's a shame she has to die." Excellor flashed angry eyes at Magnus. Now he laughed. "You always were the jealous type, Excellor. I'm surprised you came here alone, girl. Are you here to surrender?"

"I'd consider surrendering if you promised you'd take care of the people of Nealander. That my friends and loved ones would be treated with respect and dignity."

"Look around you little girl. Everyone here is taken care of."

"I see an army of people that are half-starved and their clothing is falling from their bodies. I saw how you took care of those in the dungeons of the Grand Palace. I've seen the devastation of the land. All the while, you reap the benefits. Your reign is a brutal dictatorship and your luxuries are carried on the backs of slaves." I was feeling oddly courageous even though I knew my death was imminent.

"Archers! Aim your weapons!" Fifty men stepped into the circle and raised their bows towards me. Arrows of light focused on my chest. I had no idea if my ring could stop that many weapons. I closed my eyes and pictured a large tornado, with me being in the eye and the strongest winds where the archers stood. I didn’t release it yet.

"I don't want anyone hurt. That's why I came alone."

"She's so adorable, Magnus. She really cares."

I watched Magnus as he began to form the word for "Fire". I release the tornado. Dust and smoke swirled into the air. Magnus yelled out to fire, but the archers were tossed to the side. Several arrows were loosed. Any that came near me were destroyed by my ring. I let the tornado die down.

"She has a ring! They were all supposed to be destroyed."

"Apparently not all of them." I smiled but inside I knew the worst was yet to come.

Magnus launched an amazingly large fireball at the archers. I tossed a shield around them as the fireball sizzled and fell apart around them. To my left the older warrior pushed his way through the ring of warriors. He had two people with him. Taric and Galadon. Others pushed forward, fully fifty or more, their clothing had been restored from my earlier magic. They carried swords of light. I turned my focus back on Magnus and Excellor who were now looking a little frightened. They drew swords of light and rushed forward towards me. The two men with them cast fireballs at me. I'd learned from before to keep my distance from them. This time I hurled them backwards and put shields around them. The army grew agitated and tense. A shout came from behind me.

"The Royal Army has arrived! They're riding Antallas!" They were torn. Destroy me and gain the favor of their King and Queen, run from the Royal Army even though the Royal Army was outnumbered, or fight.

I yelled out to everyone. "I urge you all not to fight! You've been pawns in this war. Lay down your weapons. I'd rather surrender than anyone get hurt."

Taric and Galadon along with the old warrior and fifty others ran towards me. The archers who I'd spared seized the moment and yelled, "In defense of the Queen!" They ran towards me as well. The Cumberlings smiled within their bubbles of shielding. I closed my eyes.

"It's been an honor upholding our covenant with you, Serenity." Toor's words helped me be at peace with my death.

"The honor has been all mine."

I didn’t want my death to be in vain. I concentrated on restoration and let the magic pour through me. I let it loose like a tsunami. I opened my eyes to see something startling. The forest and meadows for miles in all directions were in full bloom and surrounding me like a protective barrier were hundreds of the Cumberling army. They all faced outward from me. Their weapons of light not letting anyone near me.

I smiled and sent fireballs straight into the air to explode like fireworks. It was a type of Morse code. If Talyn was with the Royal Army then hopefully she'd see and know not to attack. I lifted the four Cumberlings up into the air behind me and turned Toor towards the Meadows. We walked forward, my honor guard protecting me but none raised a sword or an arrow.

"Taric. Can you run ahead? Alert the armies not to attack each other."

He smiled broadly. "You remember me, my Queen. I'd be honored to." With that he ran ahead shouting for all to not attack.

By the time I entered the main battlefield my honor guard had become at least five thousand strong. They moved forward with me all facing outward to protect me. Many had taken it upon themselves to guard the Cumberlings which still floated behind us. I looked out over the Meadows of Amondian. Fully ten thousand or more warriors stood there resplendent in their battle armor and riding Antallas. Three rode forward. My new guard would not let them pass until I gave them word. Talyn, Rictalous, and Dartagnen dismounted as did I.

Talyn rushed into my arms and began kissing me as she scolded me. "That was the most stupid, selfish, caring, and loving thing anyone has ever done. You and I will have a serious talk when we get home. I'm not happy about your decision."

Dartagnen stepped forward. "When the city heard what you'd done we couldn't stop them from wanting to come and save you. For every man and woman that came to the palace to aid you, an Antallas arrived for them to ride. What started out as a rescue team of four hundred turned into over fifteen thousand. The entire city left their homes to come to your aid."

I clung onto Talyn. "I'm so very humbled by their love for me. I'm not deserving of it."

The older warrior pushed his way into our inner circle. "My name is Chauncy Frederick. What you did, my Queen, was so incredibly brave. Your words to me and those of us that heard them spoke volumes. For years we've been beaten and abused under the rule of the Cumberlings. I owe you my life." He then knelt at my feet. Those around him fell to their knees and that continued further and further until some thirty five thousand people around me were kneeling. I reached down and raised Chauncy back to his feet.

"No one needs to kneel to me."

"That's so touching, little princess. We'll accept your surrender now." Magnus said tauntingly from his shield bubble.

Rictalous stepped forward and took my hand in his. "Like Talyn, you and I need to talk, my Queen. I can’t have a Royal Guard when the Queen simply puts herself into harm's way. What would you have us do with these four?"

I raised my eyebrow and smiled mischievously. "I have an idea."

Part 16

It had been a difficult and challenging last fifty-seven days. Luckily Talyn had forgiven my going off to save the world on my own as I'd never been able to handle the councils, meetings, and wedding preparations without her. Tomorrow was to be our wedding and my mom and dad had arrived. Talyn's parents had to be delayed until now since the aftermath of the Cumberlings took so much of our time. Much of Nealander was still destroyed by the Cumberling reign and there were remote cities that still needed restoration. Those would need to wait until after the wedding.

For now I had more pressing things on my mind. "They're going to love you, Tiger."

"I'm more nervous meeting your parents than I was walking through the Cumberling army."

"Don't be. You're everything and more that any parents would love to have as a daughter-in-law. Besides, you saved the world. How could they resist you?" She took my arm in hers and walked me out into the sitting room. There her parents stood facing the windows. I almost turned around and ran the other way.

When they heard us arrive they turned and smiled warmly at Talyn and gave a slight bow to me. Now that was awkward. My future parents-in-law bowing to me. Talyn ran into their arms. I stood back and watched feeling a little out of place. After all, they'd not seen their daughter in almost twenty years and I was intruding on their reunion.

"Mother and father, I want you to meet someone very special to me and to everyone around here. This is Serenity Lorelei Joelle Amiday, Queen of Nealander." I suddenly felt like a sheep at a town fair being judged.

"You're not what we expected."

I wasn't sure how to take that comment. "I'm not sure what you were expecting."

"Of course we'd heard about the beautiful Queen that single handedly ended the reign of the Cumberlings, restored the capital city, and was so wonderful that the entire fighting population took up arms to go to battle for you." I was still unsure where this was all going. "The stories simply don't do you justice. You're far more beautiful that the tales portray. You do us a great honor by marrying Talyn."

"Hardly, sir. For the honor is all mine that such a lovely, talented, and intelligent young lady that is your daughter would choose someone as lowly as myself. She could have anyone and yet she chooses me."

Talyn's parents hugged me tight. "We love you already."

Part 17

The day of the wedding had finally arrived. I’d sort of hoped that perhaps we could elope to avoid all the pomp and ceremony. I’d snuck in to see Talyn but she’d already left early to get herself prepared. There was a note:

‘My one and true love. It’s sort of tradition for us not to see each other until the moment of the wedding. I broke with tradition and very quietly watched you as you slept. It’s been a long wait, but in the grand scheme of things, we have thousands of years together. I’m looking forward to tonight, but more importantly to wake up next to you every day for the rest of my life. You’ve made me so happy. I love you, Tiger!’

I smiled and headed to the bathroom where I slowly bathed and took my time knowing that this would be the last moments I had alone for the rest of the day. When I finally opened the door there were no less than three small herds of people. One herd for getting me ready, one herd for updates on the kingdom, and the third herd to explain the tarn by tarn details of the day’s proceedings.

The first herd was a little perturbed with me that I’d already bathed. The ladies excitedly pushed me back into my room and began my head to toe preparations. I felt like I was in one of those automatic car washes. By the time they were finished with me I was an image to behold. The wedding dress was both sexy and conservative. My legs, stomach, and arms were covered in a transparent white sheer fabric with what I could only describe as pink diamonds throughout. A white miniskirt was connected to a solid white covering for my breasts. My skin was fully exposed across my chest with a deep and plunging neckline. The train was fully twenty feet in length. My hair was done upright and jewels were sparkling across my bare chest and throughout my hair. They applied makeup for my eyes and lips and my Queenly tiara sat on top.

The Temple of the Stars was located several miles from the city. A natural amphitheater allowed for thousands of people to attend. The temple itself was like a massive gazebo. A waterfall cascaded down the mountain and into the lake right next to the temple. The site was not a place I’d been able to restore yet and was only slowly coming back to life.

I was led into the Grand Palace where hundreds of well wishers gathered to see me off. Toor stood proudly nearby. It would be a long side-saddle ride to the temple.

“You look splendid, Serenity.”

“As do you, Toor.”

He began walking slowly through the Grand Palace and into the Grand Way. I reminisced about the condition the place was when we first came here and how now all the fountains were running clear and flowers were blooming. People tossed flowers into our path as we walked through the city and into the forest.

“I feel so grateful for you, Toor. I’m glad none of the Antallas were hurt and we avoided a war.”

“You've done much, Serenity, and in such a way that builds trust with the people. You’ll be a remarkable Queen and I'll always be around for you if you shall ever need me.”

We finally could see the Temple of the Stars in the distance. Antallas lined our pathway into the natural amphitheater. They dipped their heads towards me as we moved forward. Soon throngs of people filled the air with their songs and flowers. My eyes alighted on a single individual at the end of the temple. Talyn, my Talyn. She was still a long ways off, but I knew it was her. At the entrance of the temple, Toor knelt and my dad helped me down. I thanked Toor and took my dad’s arm in mine.

“You look absolutely stunning, Serenity. It’s such an honor to be here for you and to walk you down the aisle.”

“You look pretty dapper yourself, dad.” I paused and turned to him and hugged him. Then I spontaneously kissed him on the cheek. “I realize you probably still see me as your son. I need you to know that I’ve never felt more like myself than after my transformation took place.”

We started walking again. The people were jammed into the temple seating and singing and cheering me as we walked by. “In some ways, Serenity, this feels more right to me too. I hope we’ll always be welcome here with you.”

“You always have a place here.”

Armed Royal Guards lined the walkway and saluted as I went by. When we neared the end of the temple, I let go of my dad’s arm and handed him back off to my mom. She looked so beautiful in the dress I’d purchased for her. We’d gone shopping in the city a few days ago. I was thrilled to have some real mother/daughter time together. I hugged and kissed her, then turned to see my beautiful bride. Talyn’s gown was similar to mine, but had a color that was more of a pink that seemed to match the diamonds in my dress. Her gems were a brilliant white. I caught my breath as I stepped up and looked into her eyes.

There was lots more ceremony to be done yet, but I whispered to her. “You look like God cried and from His tears, you were made. You’re a gem of such beauty and radiance that none can compare. A priceless jewel worth more than life itself.”

Talyn smiled. “That’s your best analogy yet with one exception.”

“What’s that?”

“You’re far more beautiful than me, far more radiant, and far more priceless. Tonight, I’m going to treat you like the finest of wines.”

“How do you treat the finest of wines?”

Slowly and seductively she spoke the following words. “I start by gently caressing the bottle, and examining every inch of it. I slowly bring it up to the right temperature. Then, when all is set, I’ll gently open it and taste of its sweet nectar.”

I then did a very Royal blush. I was breathing heavily at the thought. I had to control my thoughts as I was afraid of catching the temple on fire. Talyn smiled and whispered “I love you, Tiger.”

I took her hand in mine and we stood in anxious anticipation through the three-tarn ceremony. When he finally turned to Talyn to tell her she could kiss me I was more than eager. Much to the crowd’s delight, Talyn cupped both of my cheeks with her hands and kissed me so passionately and deeply that I forgot entirely where I was and closed y eyes to feel her love. It was more powerful than anything I could even imagine. When I opened my eyes to stare into hers, I failed to hear the cheering of the crowd. I failed to see how the temple area had transformed into new life bursting with flowers. I failed to smell the intoxicating scents of the pollen from the fruit trees. I failed to notice the fish jumping and the birds singing. I was forever lost in her warm embrace and blue eyes.

Talyn smiled and turned us towards the people. I was on autopilot. They announced the new Royal couple to cheers and applause. We were then greeted by the Council, our parents, Rictalous, Dartagnen, all the magician discipline leaders, and then the rest of the people. Somehow through the very long rest of the day and the feasts, dancing, and ceremony, I managed to smile and greet and snack on bits of food, but it would be forever lost to my memory as I had only one thought the entire night. It was late into the evening that the door to our bedroom had finally been closed and sealed.

It only took us mere moments to fall into bed together with our clothing vanished. We wrapped ourselves into each other’s embrace.

Part 18

It was sometime later that night, not much later, that Serenity and Talyn’s parents sat together in the chill of the evening air on a balcony overlooking the lake. They all both felt and saw a mighty wave of brightly colored magic that flowed out from the Grand Palace and beyond the distant horizon.

By morning stories arrived at the Grand Palace from cities around the planet of how forests became green, meadows filled with flowers, and gardens were filled with fruit. For some it was all a great mystery. It wasn’t for Talyn and Serenity.

Part 19

Talyn and I stayed at the Summer Palace for our honeymoon. We took a much needed month away from everyone and everything and enjoyed each other thoroughly. As we lay together in our bed, my head on Talyn’s shoulder, my arm and leg draped over her, and Talyn’s fingers gently running through my hair, I felt a deep contentment.

“What ever became of the Cumberlings?”

“Their memories were erased, they were transformed into children, and sent to Earth to be adopted.”

“You didn’t?”

“I did… I didn’t have the heart to kill them and with what they knew they’d always be a threat. Besides, I think I turned out alright having that happen to me.”

“You more then turned out alright. You turned out like dough, cinnamon, and sugar all baked together.”

“Like what?”

“Dough, cinnamon, and sugar... A cinnamon bun… Warm, wonderful, and tastes delicious.”

I blushed. “And you think my analogies need work…” I kissed Talyn as we wrestled in the bed laughing and giggling.



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